Modernity, Life’s full circle!

 

Oldage3A couple of days back, I was talking to a classmate of mine. I had called to wish her on her 70th birthday! I was pleased when she said, “Pramod, I feel as if I am around 50 or 55 but surely not 70!” The in and around 70 generations, was born after India got independence from the British in 1947. Our behaviour, thinking and attitude depend on our personal experiences, and the way society acts. Under Britishers, the Indian public, government officials had a different attitude towards Goras! Indians would treat Britishers with deference. My father was a police officer, and whenever he spoke of Britishers, I could feel that he would talk with a lot of respect to the Britishers. It was the result of 150 years of British dominance. My father, otherwise, was not a docile personality. Such an attitude could be seen in the sports arena too! Sunil Gavaskar was the first cricketer who showed “attitude” with his bat and then as a person against foreigners.

Later generations have changed; it can be seen in the behaviour of Tendulkars and Kohlis! As people started travelling internationally and met foreigners regularly for business or otherwise, the change was seen in society, in general. But change is not seen on personal levels in certain areas of life. Lately, I see people writing emotional stories and sharing their views about family-related issues. Our generation has become, so-called old, but due to migration, our children could be anywhere in the world right from Timbuktu to Rio de Janeiro; the children have spread for work and due to immigration. The result is that the parents live “alone” as per current discussions. When husband and wife are both around, how can they be alone?

The thought of lonely parents is mainly due to love but also due to unchanged attitude towards life. The post-independence generation did not migrate as much as the current generations do. They were in touch with the base more often. The life expectancy during that period was much less compared with today. The males from the older generation died just after retirement. In those days, the nuclear families had not come up. Hence the retired parents would continue to live in the joint family. They never felt “alone”.

Probably in various stories or write-ups I read (I call them sob stories which friends don’t like), people mix up the words “Alone” and “Loneliness”. When the parents are together, they are not alone by definition. But they can be lonely. But to me, loneliness is the isolation that comes with an expectation unmet, a feeling unreturned. According to my thinking, this is the crux of the matter.

Both parents and children would become and remain unhappy if they do not train their minds to become detached. Life will be much easier if there are no expectations. The closeness and love between them are natural, but remaining too attached causes all the issues. When people live in different cities, states or nations, you cannot expect anybody to be available at the drop of a hat! In today’s business and work scenario, work pressures are high. People are sometimes even worried to take their annual holidays lest they become redundant in today’s competitive world. What does the world detach mean? It means disconnected. Synonyms for detaching are dispassionate or uninvolved.

Once both sides learn to remain detached, life becomes much more manageable. My generation has been luckier than our parent’s generation. We had the benefits of better education, slightly better family finances, more opportunities than the previous generations. We have travelled in bullock carts as well as in Concordes! We have written letters on postcards, and we are using WA and FB! Our life and lifestyle have changed from the rationing of foods to plenty of everything. We bought Coca Cola for 25 paise; now we don’t mind paying Rs.250/ for a cup Coffee!

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My friend HK and his wife are in this photo. They go around on their bikes all over Pune district regularly.

Now my suggestion is that we should also change our thinking about relationships and responsibilities! We also have the benefit of better health compared to the older generation. Should our thought processes also not become modern? When we have done so many things during our working days, why can’t we manage our lives post the 70’s? What is the big deal? Should we be dependent on our children for support during this golden phase? Financial dependence and needs can be different for each individual and family. These requirements should be resolved by each family but besides that, why we cannot be independent of children? There could be health issues. Your child may be living in the same city, or maybe she lives 100 km from where you live. That does not mean that the children will have time to help and support you regularly.

On similar lines, children should also understand that your parents growing older does not mean that they are helpless or lonely. The technology that has brought back your old friends, your classmates, are also being used by your parents. They are also having their alumni meets. They meet their friends, and in some cases maybe their ex-flames! Life is changing; there is more openness. We hear of cases where people are meeting each other for companionships. In case of death of one of the spouses, parents of both sexes look for friendship, companionship or in some cases remarriage too! The parents are mature enough or sometimes may not be mature enough. But it is their life; children can give suggestions but let the seniors take the decisions about life.

The seniors should think like what my classmate said the other day. The cliché “age is just a number” becomes relevant. Health permitting, you need not “feel” old. It is up to us! I have come across people who are of the same age as me but talk and feel like a 90-year-olds. I had shared a story about the parents of my Japanese friend. The father is 93, and the mother is 87. The father regularly goes out and travels by Metro to get their groceries etc. It is because they must have decided to remain independent of the children.

Parents, venture out in the bad, bad world, and then you will realise that it is a good, good world! Children, don’t you worry too much about your parents; after all, they are the ones who have brought you up! There is some chance that they know something about the world, is it not! Don’t go overboard about splurging on your parents; they know that you also have your own life! You need to take that holiday to see the midnight Sun! Your children will be going to Oxfords and Harvards of this world! Be sure you use your Video WhatsApp or Google Duo or Skype once in a while. You need not give them iPhone so that you can use Facetime! They are happy with what they have!

I am just saying be realistic, be practical. I humbly request to those who write “Sob Stories” on WA or FB about lonely, old parents. Some parents can get into unhappy mode again, reading such stories. Please leave them alone, let them lead their life (they will be there to support you when you need). But don’t forget that they can live happily on their own!

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Benefits of Social Media!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net Neutrality!

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

 For example, imagine someone using a paid service from a website, regularly. That person does a lot of purchases on the site. If there is no net neutrality, the service provider will have the authority, in connivance with the web site, to allow faster access to large customers! It is like mother giving additional cookie to favourite child! In certain cases, they may block access to you! To avoid such situation Net Neutrality is essential.

Discussion on this subject has started recently in the US. Internet was born with Neutrality and US government under Trump for their own reasons want to end Net Neutrality. Main thing is that nobody “owns” internet! Internet is a service created by scientists which has changed the world beyond imagination. It is a rare service which is independent of language, nation, cast and creed!

A couple of years back Facebook tried to bypass Net Neutrality with a concept called Free Basics, in India. They said after arrangement with some service providers, if a user has fully used his usage limit, he will still be allowed use of Facebook. This is the first step away from Net Neutrality. If this were allowed, then service providers would have made their own rules slowly and allowed access as was beneficial to them. Government of India came down heavily on them and stopped free Basic from rolling out.

Today there is a news that in the USA, that FCC has repealed all the laws set by Obama administration to keep Net Neutrality. Is this the beginning of war on the net? Does it mean that there will be rich man’s internet and poor man’s internet? Does this mean that if you pay more fees then you will be able to sit in the first-class lounge?

People who are for non-neutrality argue differently. They claim that they will provide basic services to all in the same way; however, those who pay more money will get services even if their package has been used up. But what about those who already have unlimited package? Will the speed remain same for them beyond “fair” usage? Will they get lesser priority beyond a certain limit? Who will decide fair usage? Once the discrimination is allowed then it will be impossible for anyone to track what certain sites do or what certain service providers do? Agencies cannot track these misdemeanors.

In Portugal, something similar is already happening. Even though they are under EU laws, each country has its own bit of freedom. Portugal is allowing their ISP’s to play around a bit. Large ISPs have given every indication that the idea of freedom costing extra isn’t too far from their ideal. And abusing a lack of broadband competition to force users to shell out additional funds to access to the content and services of their choice isn’t too far off of what has already happened;  AT&T had decided to block Facetime from working unless users shelled out for more expensive plans, or Verizon’s had decided to charge users $10 more just to avoid arbitrary video throttling. This is going to happen! 

All these years internet is being treated on par with Electricity, Water usage. For using these services, one did not have to do anything special. If you used more electricity or water, you paid more. These utilities never say, we will give you xxx units only. You pay more then only you get additional usage. Or since you are not our priority customer, water pressure will be low at your end.

I feel that jury is still out. But with USA formally declaring internet as “Non-Neutral”, we will know the real meaning of the same over a period. Portugal has done it, but they have done it in a small way and discretely. There is another argument for “Non-Neutral” internet; the proponents of this are saying that there will be large investments in internet technology because of new policy. According to them there are “serious” users and “non-serious” users. Majority are of the second variety. For them probably internet will continue to be available as it is available today. Serious users may not mind paying a little more for additional, better, faster and un-restricted services. On the other side Netflix has already shown how people love to use it. So they already have an upper hand on the ISP’s!

Friends, I am non-serious user of internet. Will it really matter to me about net neutrality? Honestly, I do not know and only time can tell. New internet order has just started today, formally. So let’s wait and observe.