Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


What’s Up, Folks! 

In today’s times, it will look like wrong use of the phrase! People talk more on WhatsApp and Facebook, social media. What’s Up, Folks! It is a phrase we use when you meet someone face to face. Meeting face to face is equally alien-like someone not having FB/WA account or not having cell phone itself. It is a revolution which was not foreseen even fifteen years back. But significant hardware changes and the infrastructural changes in the Internet have made this possible. That has led to the formation of WhatsApp University, but it could be FB University as well!

I now find that some secret writers have come up like mushrooms on these Universities. They write long essays on various subjects; they also write “treaties” and attribute them to well-known personalities. We have no shortage of gullible people. These write-ups start circulating, there are discussions, there are comments. It goes on and on and on.

The thing about some of these long essays is that the language used is reasonably good. The writings are logical, but in most cases, these are written by invisible people. The recent one about Mr Ratan Tata is a case which fits the bill. Finally, Mr Tata declared that he has not written the article. I have doubts in my mind whether Mr Tata wrote both the original write-up and the denial. Tata group donated Rs 1500/ crores to the various funds to fight the current pandemic. The philanthropic role played by the Tata group, in the development of India is too well known to be discussed here. Tata group has been a visionary, the founder Jamshedji Tata and later J R D Tata have shown the pathbreaking ways to the group. Mr Ratan Tata has ably continued the legacy. FB/WA university has its favourites. Wipro donated Rs 1150/ crore, L&T Rs 500/ crores plus they will keep on paying Rs.500/ cores a month to their contract workers till the lockdown lasts. These names somehow are not in circulation.

Some people are intelligent, sensible and keen to do social service to benefit the society. I salute such people. They create NGO’s, they form pressure groups and create pressure on the governments to rethink on many projects such as urban mobility, large dams, and so on. They push authorities to ensure that our hills and trees are not destroyed blatantly. I have a friend who fits the bill. But it appears that recently he has started calling himself an activist. What is the difference between a person doing social service and a social activist? Jaya described it very well. When she was chatting with this friend during dinner at a party, he said that he had become an activist. Jaya said, “Oh! It means your life has become easier; you do not have to deliver anything. No deliverables, just oppose and criticise.” He was upset and walked away. It hurts when you get shot in the bull’s eye.

I will share some more things about the friend mentioned above. He is on the FB university and looks like he has become a chair professor! He has been writing a lot of stuff on FB and forwarding articles or videos. In the current scenario of the pandemic, the nerves of people in society are frayed. His “friends” from a group of highly intelligent individuals don’t like the tack he is taking these days on critical subjects. But our friend is actively pushing his ways; some friends have started saying that he has an agenda. Matters reached an ugly stage, and most of his friends from that group regularly bashed him up. The situation became nasty and bloody, and I do not like it. I read these exchanges and do not like the way it is happening. But had these attacks been sober, I may have agreed with his friends. He claims that he does not care what others say. But friends let me tell you. It hurts, especially when people saying such stuff are known to you for years. Why he is doing it, I am not sure! But since last one week, he has stopped writing those tricky things on FB. I am all for freedom of expression, democracy and liberal thoughts. But when so many other intelligent people oppose your ideas, you cannot call them Hitler’s troops.

Then some activists have no technical knowledge of the subject; the subject can be a large dam, or national highway or a large chemical plant. There are always pluses and minuses in these discussions. But somehow these people fail to direct their activism in the right direction. Almost 45 to 50 years back Mr S L Kirloskar had asked a rhetoric question when in Pune road widening had started. Are the trees for us or we are there for trees? He suggested planting a lot of trees that could replace damaged trees in road widening.

Some of these mysterious writers have a penchant for digging out real-life and mythological stories. They link these stories with current technology and write stories of how our culture was ahead in science. We were ahead of the whole world in everything. There was an exciting story on WA about Ramdas Swami, Shivaji’s Guru. The story was about how Swamiji chose Shivthar Ghal, a valley,  to settle and wrote Dasbodh, famous treaties. The story had one Professor Bhopale. He went and took readings in that area and had a bank of modern equipment. Professor explains using a few technical words and reveals to us how no signal reached Shivthar Ghal. Then the story tells us how Ramdas Swami had this knowledge about Electrical signals. Swami selected the Ghal so that he could write Dasbodh in peace. No disturbance would be there whatsoever. These people had started a website on the subject, and some techno expert would reply, refuting all the probing questions. Come on, friends we all know that you don’t get electrical signals in some mountain areas, tunnels or inside the large buildings. The writer wanted to prove such claims to the gullible people in our society, and they succeeded to some extent. Why people do these things, I am not sure. There appears to be no way of making some money out of this scam. I still don’t know why this is done!

People have been sending write-ups in the name of Nana Patekar, Pu La Deshpande, Shivaji Maharaj and many such famous people. A recent addition to that list has been Ratan Tata. My friend Sudhakar is an expert on Pu La Deshpande literature. He quickly can find the fraud shared by these “ghost” writers. I am not sure why people do such things? Probably people have that hidden talent within them; what they write is good quality stuff but not ghost-written for celebrities, but pushed under their name. Some of them are long pieces and must be taking a great effort. I  rarely find any grammatical or spelling mistakes in them. Friends, could you share with me the logic behind making such efforts? To end, I will share one interesting story.

An individual called me one day. He started praising my blog writing. I jokingly told him, “Okay, I will give you a treat, but come to the point.” He said he would give me a subject every month. I should write a blog on that subject. I laughed and said, “I am yet to start “dial a blog service”, but still why do you want me to write.” He said, “You are a magnificent blogger. I will get your blog translated in Marathi, get your approval. Then I will make sure that the blog reached at least a hundred thousand people.” He definitely had some agenda (I know what it was), but I passed! I don’t want my blogs to be force circulated.

Does someone get stories mentioned above written from someone with an agenda? Please share those with me. I would love to read them; some have a good style!

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!

How closely do we know others? 

In our life, we meet many people. First of course is our mother and then the family. The journey continues until you die. At various stages, you make friends starting from KG to completing your education. If you are lucky, you continue to live in the same city where you were born and educated. During this phase, you make lifelong friends. Later, you start your career and get married too. For your professional work, you may be anywhere in India or may even migrate to different countries. You get additional close family members after marriage. Later, during your work phase, you meet more people. But rarely you make new friends. But now since last 10 to 15 years, you are making lots of “Friends” on FB. Many of these “friends” you hardly know them. Then you make “Friend’s Groups” on WA.

I will be writing about some friends from school and college days. It is their journey that was sometimes normal, and at other times shocking or painful.

Social networks have found us a lot of old friends (real ones), but you forget that a lot of water has gone under the bridge (in my case sometimes 50 to 60 years). I was looking for a dear friend school days. Somehow, I managed to get his cell number. The person who shared his cell number with me indicated that the friend had changed a lot. I was apprehensive when I called him. But once we started speaking, we continued almost for an hour. We did the usual things like exchanging photos, shared what we did in life. He was the good old jovial friend that I remembered from school days. But since then, whenever I call, he responds and shares life experience in general. But he has never called me, ever. I later understood that he had met with an accident in which he had a head injury. That has put him in difficulty. It has changed his personality.

I recently came in touch with another friend who was at Elphinstone College, Bombay with me for two years. All of us in those days were from lower-middle-class families trying to come up in life via education. The friend used to live in Girgaum in one of the wadis- a cluster of houses. He was studious, showing the usual lack of confidence for those days, especially in Elphinstone College. The college was well known for scholars both in science and arts stream. But the college had many students who had taken their school education in English medium schools. So, most of us were not sure-footed in the initial phase. Some continued with the same mindset until they passed out. The friend has not changed much even now and has remained the same as he was. It is an excellent tribute to him to have maintained his values from childhood.

It reminds me of another friend who was with me at Elphinstone College, but we were also from the same school. He was a reticent, smart person. He was brilliant and did quite well until we joined engineering. We were together in engineering too; he did not enjoy his engineering course, probably! He flunked in one year. After engineering, I met him again after ten years. He had entirely changed. He had started smoking and talked of alcohol enthusiastically. He was in the construction business. He would speak of millions of Rupees which was a lot of money, in the early ’80s of the previous century. Jaya was impressed with his talk. When we were coming back to Pune, I told Jaya that this is not the old friend I knew. I don’t believe in his boasting of a large amount of money.

Over a period, we started receiving the news of his failing business and some wrong business deal with people very close to him. He started drinking and smoking heavily. Funds began dwindling. He would come to Pune occasionally. He would smile the way he used to, but he had started looking haggard. He was never in a mood to listen to others. His sister suggested to him that his two children could live with her in Bombay for education. He agreed, luckily. Both his children are well settled.

Now the sad part! The friend hurtled down continuously in the vicious circle of the lack of money, alcohol and could not put the brakes on. His wife valiantly tried to support home by taking tuitions. In his final couple of years, I came to know that he would sell his household items to quench his thirst for alcohol. About fifteen years back, I got the news that he had passed. From a typical god-fearing family, an intelligent person with a pleasant personality was wasted. It would have been okay had he not been successful in business. Is it destiny that took him on the wrong path? I am aware that addiction to alcohol can ruin people, but during childhood, if someone had predicted about him, I would have simply said, Oh! Come on, not him!

The last friend I am going to talk about is a sadder case. It is because he is still around. He and I used to live in the same building and had a similar background. We were batchmates. Later as we grew, I realised that he was a little less endowed in smartness- both in studies and otherwise. He meandered through his life the way hundreds of thousands of people move. He had a routine job from which he took premature retirement. It enabled him to get some lump sum money; he had a daughter who was perpetually sick. She died about ten years back. Her illness probably hit his corpus badly. But his brave wife continues to work even today. He lives around twenty km away from Pune in a rented home. In India, suburbs are not as costly as they are in developed countries. He has lost his “Will” to do anything. He has become a chain smoker. His wife gives him an exact amount for him to buy a packet of cigarettes before she goes to the office. But my friend wanders around during the day. Once his stock of cigarettes is finished, he looks for butts. Sometimes he goes to an ATM near his home and begs for money for the cigarettes. Another friend from those days has been in touch with him all through life. He has tried to help in many ways, including psychiatric treatment. But it seems he has crossed the primary threshold. It appears that after some medicines, he will be shifted to an institution.

My eyes are still moist when I write about him. We had fantastic 6/7 years together during our childhood. We fought; we were partners in table tennis. I spoke to him a few months back, and I told Jaya that something is seriously wrong with him. I will be able to handle his death, but I am too much of a coward to meet him in this condition. I have now made my resolve to go and meet him once this lockdown situation is over. Now I have found a valid reason to avoid visiting him! 😒😒

Friends, life is beautiful, but there are peaks and troughs of happiness and sadness. I know that I will overcome this phase. But life is full of surprises, either way!

Pathbreaking?  

We are lucky to be around in 2020, especially for those from my generation because we have used bullock carts, radios and we have used computers, cell phones, apps changing the world. I am comfortable using all the new technology, and I am not overwhelmed by various apps. The gadgets and apps galore are changing the way live. Sometimes I wonder how we survived during my childhood. But everything always has two sides. There is proverbial another side the society finds at some stage, once the euphoria dies down for anything new.

I am talking of Cell Phones, FB, WA and Instagrams and many such 21st century things; along with this, there are game-changing apps, too, like Air Bnb and Uber/Lyft/Ola. These were designed to create a lifestyle previously unknown to us. But you will be surprised how the apps get used for the purpose not thought of by the creators. Those who create such apps also make errors of judgement in the software will work, or users could use it. I know a bit about software as I ran a software product company for almost twenty years.

We had a product called DMS, dealership management system. The product did everything for authorised dealers who sold and serviced vehicles. The product created for such companies followed all statutory rules, but for private dealers, we modified it to suit their requirement in the initial launch phase. One problem these dealers faced was that some vehicles were brought for repairs by the drivers hired by owners. They would demand some easy money from dealership owners. We tweaked the system to include some spare parts in the bill but did not reflect on the inventory. The extra money was paid to the driver from the vehicle owner’s pocket. An enterprising dealer used this system for engine overhauling work. The user would replace 50 spare parts but display 70 spare parts in the bill and skim the money! Software users are smarter!

Let us consider Airbnb. It stands for Air-bed and breakfast, or Airbnb (“Air-b-n-b”) for short. Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations while travelling. How does Airbnb workAirbnb lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. Airbnb takes 3% commission of every booking from hosts, and between 6% and 12% from guests.

Okay, this is the business part. But what it means that I have a home where I have a room available for temporary renting. I make it available on the site. Travellers who are going to be in your city, look for accommodation. They see various options with the help of photos and writeups; the home may be an average home to fancy home. You advertise the rate for the stay. If people find it suitable, they will book and stay. When you leave, you bring it back to the condition you received it in and go. It is more like a homestay.

But in London, they found a big fraud had taken place in the system. A group of people came together and created a system whereby various “homes” were under the umbrella of an organisation. They got these properties on Airbnb and fictitious owner names of Jack, Daniel, and so on. They would rotate the same properties in the name of these people. Furniture, arrangements inside were similar, but they would publish photos taken from different angles so that homes looked different. Airbnb has a separate business company where they list hotels too! But Airbnb is only for individual households. The group in London was running a big fraud probably because Airbnb charges a small commission for such homes. People tried to take advantage of some loophole in the system to cheat the company. When people offer their homes, they generally provide with great care. But this group had poor cleanliness standards and in general, had the mentality of fly by night operators. Why people go to any extent to cheat for a few extra bucks? Such episodes bring different thoughts in mind. Should I save some dollars or book formal hotels? In these hotels, at least I know what I would get.

Let us now think about Ride-Hail apps. When talk of these apps, Lyft, Uber and Ola (in India) names come to mind. The apps were supposedly THE solution to pollution problems. What was expected from the apps? People would stop using personal vehicles; they would stop buying private cars in large numbers. Lower emission and lower pollution will make a happy world! But has it happened the way it was supposed to happen? Yes and mostly no.

Why is it so? It is because there was one assumption made in the model. These ride companies expected that a lot of their business would be given by sharing of the rides, because of cost-effectiveness. But in reality, it does not happen that way. To begin with, a person like me who is used to travelling in my own vehicle, I don’t even consider sharing a ride.

How does share work? Assume that you are going to the airport. The software maps your path; you then select a share option. The software would track a customer going in a similar direction with share option. Cab will pick up the customer or customers! They all could be going to the airport or in that direction. You are already late to catch the flight, and you might just make it. On the way, the Cab takes a five-minute detour to drop or pick up a customer. You become jittery. I hope that I have created an extreme situation. The situation may not be critical every time, but would you give an additional 15 minutes buffer to handle such eventualities? It is an individual choice. But data indicates that ride-sharing is very low though sharing ride could be cheaper for customers.

Another thing that the app designers did not consider was, would ladies share rides with unknown males? If you regularly share with your colleagues, it is another issue, but otherwise, this possibility is remote.

What is the result? There are not many shared rides, but there are more and more cars on the roads. More importantly, the data says that cab drivers drive for 40% of the time on the streets, empty. Pollution is not reduced, and drivers are not happy. What has the app done for society? For people like me, when I feel that there could be a parking issue, I hail a Cab. Some of the younger folks don’t buy cars these days. They use these Cabs extensively. If the benefit expected was ten, then I think we have achieved between three and four!

Why such errors take place? Do people not think through correctly while designing the business model? These companies do not own cars, but their product is the software which runs their business. Sometime back Uber CEO had mentioned in an interview that he does not think Uber will ever make a profit! Currently, it is losing money heavily.

 What other effects does it have? As the number of cars has gone up, the peak time traffic speed has considerably reduced in all Metropolis areas. As these vehicles are available anywhere, they have sucked people away from buses and trains. People used to walk short distances, but now they hail a Cab. All these consequences were unintended, but the fact remains that it has happened!

What is the lesson for the future? Wait for any new system to show its results; immediate results are meaningless. Many VC’s have invested tons of money in these companies. Is it really worth it? Does it mean that product designers made mistakes and the VC’s also misjudged? How does the entire ecosystem make errors of judgment? Mind you, these are not small systems.  We have also seen the intended and actual use of social media apps. A classic example in India is the way people use “Missed Call” to send predefined messages.

In future, it is going to be tough for the human race to decide which new processes, products to use!

Freedom, Democracy and Equality! 

26th January 2020 is the day India completes 70 years as a republic. After the initial euphoria in 1950, the government settled down over a period but faced many challenges, later. Emergency in 1975 was the biggest challenge that we met. But people rose to the occasion and overcame that issue. During those tough times, the courts did not come out with flying colours.

What do we see in the 70th year? How have situations changed in the last five to seven years? The main change was the technology. WA, FB, Instagram have made connectivity easy among people. Any news, any event spreads all over the place like wildfire. It spreads like the Coronavirus may spread. I am not sure how many people understand the information they receive. As usual, there are pros and cons to the subject of technology. Watching the feed on these apps, you will be surprised to see how much venom is there in the minds of the people.

In this context, Freedom, Democracy and Equality are big words and have great importance in any democratic country. The words are being thrown around easily in recent times in India. The recent events and protests have thrown Indian society in turmoil. Humans until they complete their education are dependent on parents and teachers for guidance, support and push. But the recent events show that this bond has become weak or it is broken. Both teachers and parents are out of sync with their children.

The protests started in JNU about the increase in fees. Tuition and other fees were increased. The students wanted a rollback. The hostel fees from mighty Rs 10/ month were raised and now rolled back to Rs.10/ pm. It is an open secret that hundreds of “parasites” live in these hostels where there is almost no fee. When the agitation started, why there was no dialogue between the teachers and students? Is the bond broken? Or is it because of the atmosphere that is vitiated due to political elements in the unions? Don’t the parents of these students read newspapers or watch TV? Are they not aware that these students are not going to classes for months together?

I have been reading about these students and listening to them. Frequently, I hear the words Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Equality. How does the government handle a situation where law and order problems are created? When protestors start throwing stones, burning buses, damaging properties are police expected to be silent spectators? The police are in a very tricky situation. If they act, they are blamed, and they are also blamed for inaction. Now it is a month since the roads are blocked in the area called Shaheen Baug in Delhi. The blockage is causing inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of people travelling to Faridabad and Noida. Court has directed the police to check the possibility of breaking the deadlock. Why is this direction given? The reason for this is the attack by masked persons on JNU. There are claims and counterclaims and both sides are blaming each other. The courts want to play it safe!

During that incident, the University authorities called the police to be available near the gate in case their help was needed. Police were asked to enter the premises at 7.45 pm. It was almost two and a half hours after the fight broke out. The people involved in the attack had sticks and hockey sticks with them. Police used lathi-charge to break the fight. The assault led to more protests against the police; hence the court has given them the directive to act peacefully to break any demonstrations. The atmosphere in these institutes is such that teachers can not have any dialogue with students due to the strongly politicised atmosphere.

Protests are freedom of expression. But what about the rights of other citizens to reach their destination smoothly and on time? Now the examination season is starting. What can a student do if he or she does not reach the hall on time? Both students and others have equal rights. A demonstration can happen for one day, one week, but now it is more than one month. How to break this tangle? The initial protest started about fees, and now it is converted into CAA/NRC protest. Students are doing a few demonstrations in different cities, but the Shaheen Baug is taken over by housewives and old ladies along with their grandchildren. I never bother about religion etc. but the majority of the people seen at Shaheen Baug are Muslims. The same is the case with Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad. It indicates that the people from the Muslim community have not understood the principle behind these laws.

Where are the leaders of the Muslim community missing? Why are politicians from different parties not explaining to these people about the new law? It means that political parties are very keen to politicise the issue. Even after the discussion takes place, everyone doesn’t have to support the legislation. There is a freedom to oppose anything and everything in this country. Around 150 litigations have been filed in the Supreme Court. In the initial hearing, the Court has disagreed to stay the law. The Court has asked the government to give their reply within four weeks. Once the matter has gone into the court of law, what is the point in continuing the protests and demonstrations? You don’t want to accept the new law. You don’t wish to heed by the court ruling. What is that people exactly want?

On one side, the authorities have started a campaign to explain what CAA is all about. The second aspect is that court proceedings have started. If the protestors still want to continue protest, how to resolve this? Or we are back to my way or Highway?

The way forward is that both sides go two steps back. Or we can say take two steps forward. In life, except for birth and death, nothing is absolute. The dividing line that is currently seen is not a line drawn on a stone. Treat it as a line in the sand; let the waves wash away the lines. There is always a middle ground if we want. There is a possibility that the Supreme Court may change a few things. Supreme Court ruling has to be accepted by both the sides anyway. So why not start the discussions now. We are all from the same country. It hardly makes any difference if you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian. We belong to the same country.  So take those few steps, friends!

And don’t forget the great song!

 

New challenges of the modern world! 

Western World and the Japanese have been handling the challenges with ageing population for some time. In India, this challenge has started coming up slowly. The current generation, those who were born around India’s independence in 1947is ageing well, trying to take care of healthand in general gungho about life in general. Technology is helping them in getting in touch with each other using WA, Facebook, Instagram and such apps.  

India has an old tradition of handling the aged relatives in the family. In my young age, in many families there used to be one or two grannies, lovingly called aajjies! In those times most of the families were joint families. From the “post-independence” generation, people started getting better opportunities for education. A small percentage of the population went to foreign countries and stayed back there. Over a period, this percentage started increasing. Computerisation made technology more democratic; more and more people began getting opportunities to work and live abroad. 

Along with this, opportunities for education and work, jobs became abundant. Pan Indian migration started in a big way. All these things resulted in the formation of nuclear families. The ladies too were not far behind. After education ladies became  career oriented in a big way. Steady and better incomes inculcated a new thought process in families. All this gave birth to a new term, space; everybody wanted their space. It has become the requirement of grandparents, parents and children. But this space created voids in the family. The effect of voids was not understood, initially. The family kept helping and supporting each other in the short term. Better medical treatments and diagnostics helped longevity. All these events together have now created a new requirement in society.  

What happens when someone in the family falls ill and needs long time support. The requirement of long-term support arose when people of the golden generation became old but could not handle many things, physically; and in some cases mentally. There are two distinctive supports available. One is palliative support, and the other is like home support. Those who are seriously ill with cancer, heart issues, renal problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary issues, cerebrovascular accident need palliative care; such treatment cannot be handled at home. But general ageing related issues can be dealt under home care.  

In western countries, especially in the US, palliative care facilities are available. In Japan, there is a shortage of such facilities. In India, these facilities, compared to the needs, are almost non-existent. In India, as a society, we are prepared to provide space to each other, but while this change happened, we had not budgeted for parents who can live longer due to improved longevity. The confluence of all this created turmoil in people’s mind about handling the situation. In the year 1981, Jaya and I were in Ottawa as Jaya was taking some training. During one long weekend, we went to an island on a lake with a Canadian friend of ours; he was almost twenty years senior to us. 

On the way back, the friend said, “Hey folks, is it ok if I take a bit of detour?” We said, “Absolutely no issues.” When we reached a destination, the friend said, “It is an old people’s home, my mother is here. I come and meet her every 2/3 months.” We were sitting at the back-side of the car and were confused. We did not know what we were supposed to do. But our problem was solved by his wife. In the parking lot, she said, “I will wait with Jaya and Pramod; you go and see your mother.” Problem solved. In 1981, our friend was ok with the idea of meeting his mother every 2/3 months, because she was within 50 km from Ottawa. As a society, we are not mentally prepared with this idea. The older people’s homes available are not providing facilities that people have at home.  

There is some progress in creating facilitiesBut compared to India’s population, this number is lowIt is about creating facilities; it is also about young and old getting mentally prepared for such arrangements. Hospices need doctors, trained nurses, and medical facility to handle day to day critical requirements. Whereas in older people’s homes, the need is to create facilities which suit all the pockets. Some may need fivestar facilities, and others may be ok with a couple of stars. But there is a significant need for affordable facilities.  

Some people will ask me why am I writing about all these things. The simple reason is it is a need of times like we have schools, colleges, gardens and so on. I hope people have managed to create a corpus which will last them till they are around. 

I will tell you about some facilities in India that I know. According to me, there is a worldclass facility but I will explain it in the end. Please let me know if you know about such facilities in India. In Pune, there is one facility developed by Paranjape builders called Athashri. It is well developed and within Pune city limits. To my knowledge, they have couple of locations. In these facilities, one can buy a condo or rent it from someone who has bought it. I have heard about similar facility in Talegaon near Pune. In Lavasa near Pune, similar facilities are there. I have read something about such facilities near Dehradun, and I am sure there must be more such facilities.  But they do not provide what is provided by Dignity Foundation.

The best of such facilities for me is one in Neral. It is on a hillock, with gradually sloping covered but open corridors. Golf carts are available for those who need them. The place is called Dignity foundation. 

https://www.dignityfoundation.com/Contact-Us.aspx 

The rooms that I saw were like a standard hotel room, with bath and toilet. It had a small cupboard and kitchenette too. They also provide round the clock nursing service if required. I know all the details because someone very close to us lived there for her last few years. They had an arrangement with Reliance Hospital if hospitalisation was required. When she needed an eye treatment, they sent their person with her for a couple of days to Mumbai for treatment. She used to paint, so they had provided her with a small room. Besides joint celebrations, they used to show movies and had many activities. 

When she died, the family suggested cremation in Mumbai. But their manager suggested that if there were no specific reason to do it Mumbai, they would arrange everything in NeralWe all went to Neral for cremation. After everything was completed, the manager suggested a small tour of the facility because some of the people had never seen it before. In the end, he took us to their dining area.

He said, “Sir, it is already 1.30 pm. The management has suggested that all of you should have lunch with us and know what kind of food the residents is served.” It was a standard home type food for lunch. But what impressed all of us was the gesture they showed and took part in the cremation as if someone from their family had died! We knew her last twothree years must have passed the way she wanted. It is not the facilities but the human touch that is important. After all, people who live there are far from their family.  

The world is changing! 

Our world is changing and changing fast. The change may not be much in human nature. I am sure that humans from olden times have been smart, stupid, kind, vicious. I am sure they were greedy, hard-working, lazy, and what have you. The only thing that is changing is that we come to know about these traits more easily because of improvements in communications. Twenty-four-hour TV news channels, online news sites try to keep us updated with everything from all over the world. I will share some items I have read recently in newspapers. I will leave it to use the appropriate adjectives about the incidents.  

In Pune, one person was going home on his bike after his duty got over around 10 pm. On the way, a lady asked him for a lift. He was going in the same direction, so he agreed. After reaching that place, she requested him to drop her to her sister’s home about ten Km further. He reluctantly agreed. They chatted a lot on the way. After reaching there, he went up for the proverbial cup of coffee. One thing led to another, and the lady suggested that they go to the terrace. On the terrace, they had consensual sex after which the lady demanded Rs ten thousand from him. They fought and had an altercation. He threw her down from the third floor, and she died. He called a friend. They carried her on the bike and dumped her body in the river. Matter finished.  

There is always some discussion about online fraudsThe real hacking attacks are not so many. It is the foolishness of people that causes issues. To me, calling them online fraud is incorrect. A lady lost her purse in which she had kept her debit cards. In four days, money was withdrawn from her account at different times. She had written her PIN behind the card. She did not inform the bank to block the card. 

A forty-year-old man, married with one daughter, was searching for dating sites. He found one phone number and called it. He was “guided” how to join the site, and create a profile. Then he was told that his profile needed to be modified. At every step, the person asked him to pay money. Finally, he took a loan and made the final payment. Just guess how much total money he paid. He ended up paying Rs65/ lacsThe person paid so much money just to join the site and modify the profile a few times. A newspaper reported this as online fraud. Here the problem is that reporters also don’t understand the meaning of online fraud. It was not an online fraud; online was the method of payment. The idiot had taken a loan of Rs.30/ lacs. 

One more “online fraud”. A lady was running a consulting business. One fine day she got a call from an international number from a global placement agency.” They offered her a fantastic job. They also promised her that the wouldbe employers wanted to give her an advance of US $ Sixty thousand. She told them that she would take three months to wind up her business. Naturally, there were some processing fees to the tune of Rs 3.5/ lacs. The lady paid the amount. At the end of four months, she had no work in India; the dollar advance was still on its way. She ended up in a police station to complain. Online fraud?  

The real online frauds are for large sums; these happen mainly on weekends from business accounts. On weekends, business bank accounts are generally not accessed. People know about such scams by Monday noon.  

Some things never change in India. I came to understand that during a marriage, there were two functions one on the marriage day, and one on the previous evening. The groom’s side arrived a couple of hours late for the evening function. After arriving, they suddenly felt that the weather was sweltering. The asked the bride’s side to arrange portable air conditioners at the last moment. The venue was decided jointly by the two families, and both sides knew that it was a venue without air conditioners. There were a lot of heated discussions. It was impossible to arrange the air conditioners at such a late hour. Somehow the brides side managed to convince the groom’s side otherwise.  

Another horrible news I read recently was about a doctor of Indian origin. He was practising as a GP in England. Some complaints about indecent behaviour were heard. The authorities in that area decided to check on him. They found out that he would talk to his female patients glibly. He created fear in the minds of some ladies, and they fell in his trap. He would check their breasts and do the vaginal checking by hand. He would tell them that it is better to check these things regularly to avoid diseases like cancer. He was a GP. He was not a specialist in any branch of medicine. Finally, during the investigation, six ladies came forward to register their complaints against him. One of the patients was an eleven-year-old girl. What do you do with such doctors? Shoot them or castrate them? It was a rape under the garb of professional work.  

When I read various news item described above, I feel disgusted, sad and frustrated. Where is the world going? I think that the world is changing. People have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but in real life, there are hardly any friends. The people are becoming lonely and there are less and less face to face meetings. How many “friends” do you have with whom you can do heart to heart talk? Do people have a connect with their parents or siblings?  They do not have time for such things because of FB’s and Instagram’s of the world. I have always said that technological advancements have been fantastic in the last twenty years. But people have got too immersed in them. After their working hours- and sometimes during office hours, they only have “Me Time”, on social networks. That makes them self-centred, and they don’t communicate with each other. Such loneliness is changing their mindset. I have seen some people who are all the time looking at some screen or the other. When I tell some friends that I did not hear my phone ring because it was in another room, they are surprised that the phone has not become my appendage.  

Is the world changing for better too? Oh, yes! There is no doubt about it. Today I read about the first commercial flight of a sixseater Electric aeroplane from Vancouver. We may curse the democracy, but it is going strong. It is the governments who make it weak by not taking decisions on critical matters. They try to procrastinate all the time. But healthy democracy, the US, is starting the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Many nations are trying to come together to fight terrorism. Hongkong residents in lacs are showing the way to challenge the might of communist China! If we prepare a balance sheet of the world in general, the world is in profit, though sometimes pressures get developed to make us worry if the balance sheet will show red marks!  

So cheer up! Life is good if you want it to be good!

 

A friend in Need!

friendship4

A friend in need is a friend, indeed! If I have friends like you, I don’t need enemies are some of the famous sayings about friends. But you will be surprised to know that in the hierarchy of our life, friends are low down! Don’t be surprised; let me explain. Romantic partners, parents and children come before friends. It is a fact of life.  

Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (longdistance relationships are rarely successful), but you might go that long without contacting a friend. 

friendship3

What are friends for in life? Somebody to talk to, somebody to depend on and somebody to enjoy togetherThe expectations of friends remain throughout life. 

The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way, a more formal relationship isn’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit. You’re stuck with your family, and you’ll prioritise your spouse. But where once you could run over to your friend’s house at a moment’s notice and see if he could come out to play badminton, now you have to ask him if he has a couple of hours for a cup of coffee. Life changes, friends get lesser priority. The most important thing about friendship is you can get into and get out of it too! You become friends because you want to become friends. Your family, you cannot choose!  

We start making friends right from our childhood! But at that age, your world is so limited, your friends are chosen from the small group of kids around you where you live, where you go to school or where you are taken to a swimming lesson. If you are lucky, you might keep in touch with them throughout your life. I am fortunate that I am in contact with three of them, on and off! I got in touch with a friend again 45 years after graduation. God is great!  

As you go to high school and college, you become a bit mature and sometimes even wiser. You become more selective about who your friends should be.  

But, in adolescence, people are more mouldableYou will hide your favourite Tshirt at the bottom of the drawer because your friend said that it is not hip enough. The world may never know. By young adulthood, people are usually a little more secure in themselves, more likely to seek out friends who share their values on the important things and yes don’t hide that T-shirt because the friend said so! 

friendship1

There is a vast difference in your friends from your school time and your friends from your professional college days. School friends come from a varied background, but those from professional college have more homogeneous intellect. In this phase, our approach becomes more refined, and we make new friendships or continue with old ones based on specific criteria. Yes, you may have learned to smoke and take your alcohol with them. But you also tend to cut off with a few with friends who indulge in too much of binging. In our younger days, Jaya and I were the first to get married in our group, and Sachin was the first kid born in our group. Our priorities naturally started changing, and we ended up getting away from a group of very close friends who indulged in late-night alcoholinduced chats. The status has not much changed because certain closeness snapped during that period.  

In today’s time of WA and FB, we are all lucky to meet old longlost friends. But it so happens that after the first few meetings with school time friends, you realise that you do not have many things common now! But in case of your friends from Professional course, you find common things experienced by all during their careers. When Jaya started meeting her school friends, she was heading Nvidia operations in Pune. These friends wanted to meet for lunch on a particular day. One of them called her at 11 am and asked Jaya to join for lunch. Jaya was in a meeting but took the call as the friend was a dear one. She regretted the invite and told the friend that she would call later. When they met face to face, sometime later, her friends asked Jaya why she did not put in an application for a half a day of leave. Jaya smiled and said, “I did put an application (to herself )  but the leave was not sanctioned!”  

Friendships continue for people who attend colleges, but those who don’t go college have other responsibilities to tackle and are less available. The friendship saga continues till you complete education, but the scenario changes as people start moving out to different cities, states and nations for their jobs. Even if the friends are in the same townthe meeting of friends becomes difficult as time is at a premium. Weekends automatically become busy for day to day chores, which could not be handled during the week.  

When you get married, the friends group is a significant group during the festivities. But this closeness tapers off very fast after marriage; many don’t know what hit them. Family and spouse take precedence over everything else.  

As people enter middle age, they tend to have more demands on their time, many of them more pressing than friendship. After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s play or an important business trip. The concept of people’s expectations for friendship is always in tension with the reality of their lives. 

The time is spentmainly, into jobs and families. Not everyone gets married or has kids, of course, but even those who stay single are likely to see their friendships affected by others’ couplings. It is funny that people do not realise that the wedding is the last real get-together with friends. After that, time available goes down the hill 

As people move through life, they make and keep friends in different ways. Some are independent; they make friends wherever they go and may have more friendly acquaintances than deep friendships. Others are discerning, meaning they have a few best friends they stay close with over the years, but the deep investment means that the loss of one of those friends would be devastating. The most flexible are the acquisitive—people who stay in touch with old friends but continue to make new ones as they move through the world. 

That my friends is life, but for my generation, it is a bit too late to make any changesWe can always look back and see how we took the journey of friendship throughout our life! Just pick up the phone and call that friend whom you have not contacted for a long, long time!  

friendship2

While we were in hostels, there was a word मिठी! Friends would hug and say this word, which means the Hug! So, a BIIIIIIIG मिठी to all my friends!  

What are friends for in life? I have already said this above – Somebody to talk to, somebody to depend on and somebody to enjoy together. Let me add something. Yes, somebody to shed tear on his or her shoulder when needed!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Oldage5

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!

Oldage4