Montreal Musings-day to day life III!

Now the writer in me has started understanding the difference in going on a planned holiday on a tour and living at a destination for a reasonable period. Taking a tour is like going for a movie and then to go back to your routine. Whereas staying at a place is like reading a long novel. Enjoy it part by part. And keep on doing it for a much longer duration.

The leaves are changing the colours but not as fast as I have seen at other locations. In Montreal maybe only the Maple leaves change the colours, others only wither as winter arrives. Hopefully, within the next few weeks, I will come to know what happens.  I said this, and I saw some lovely colours today when we went out for lunch.

Public transport is one thing that I am enjoying; I don’t get that opportunity in back home. It feels nice to say hello or good morning to the bus driver while swiping the card. The response is also always a smile. Some of us may think that it is a bit mechanical, but it is anytime better than ignoring each other. Now my French vocabulary has reached the level of Merci and Bonjour! Priya shared one experience with me, which was shocking. Once while Priya was in a bus standing, a lady struggled to climb up with a walker. The driver did not start the bus as she was struggling and must have been hoping that someone will provide her with a seat. The driver even requested people to do so. But it took a few minutes for someone to decide to offer her a seat. Jaya and I are sometimes offered with the seats, but maybe we do not look old enough.

A couple of days back there was Environmental March which 50000 people attended. On that day, Montreal city contributed in a very innovative way. The public transport for all the people was free for the whole day, to encourage people to attend the march.

One thing I observed about the weather is when it is raining intermittently, the temperature may be higher, but it feels damp and cold. Five degrees cooler with Sunshine feels warmer even in the shade.

There is one interesting service offered. In our area, there was a power outage for about four hours due to some cable related issue. The affected zone was isolated, and the power was restored. It is now four days, but the fault is yet to be rectified. But that is not the end of the story. Electricity people have made some temporary arrangement with wiring and have provided power continuously to affected people for these four days using a truck-mounted generator.

Though I see at least one beggar at most Metro Stations (but never more- which is a surprise).

The developed countries have their own different systems and facilities for the pets. I see many shops catering to pets. I see many veterinary doctor’s clinics too! Probably many couples prefer to have Pets instead of children. These shops keep different clothing available for the pets. These include wedding dresses, clothes for winter, raincoats for use during rains and so on.

Another interesting thing found here is the number of flowers and flower beds, currently. People know that the flowers are going to last only for six or seven months, every year before winter takes over. But they follow this expensive hobby!

One fascinating place to visit is the festival of lights at the Botanical Garden, near the Olympic Stadium. Inspired by the ancient Chinese tradition, this event has been enchanting people since its creation. Glittering lanterns of various shapes illuminate the Chinese Garden and the eyes of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magical spectacle. The Japanese Garden leads you along a meditative illuminated path inspired by the seasons, and the First Nations Garden features an intense multimedia experience that lets you feel the beating heart of the Cycle of Life. One interesting thing; the path in the Japanese garden is quite dark, but they have made the displays with the help of mirrors, the trees appear as if they are full of fireflies! One more speciality was the Bonsai trees. One of them was as old as 160 years.  Montreal Olympic Stadium Tower in the background of light festival.

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Even as late as 15 years many Indian food items were difficult to procure, including the raw material like dal etc. But it is a pleasant surprise that most of the things are available here in Montreal reasonably easily. One can imagine their availability in the Bay area in SFO and New Jersey!

It appears that the preparations for Durga Pooja, Garba in Navratri and Diwali are already on or are being discussed. I will feel happier when assimilation of festivals also takes place, and friends other than those of Indian Origin are invited to celebrate such festivals.

I hear of Indian people who have been living in Toronto and Montreal for more than forty years. In the initial phase of their lives, it must have been trying for them to live an Indian way of life. But with more and more people living in different parts of the world, I was not surprised to see a typical store in one of the malls selling Agarbattis! Business is the ultimate leveller in this world. I read somewhere recently, that Agarbattis worth Rs. 800/ crores were imported in India from China. When we were on the Alaska Cruise about three years back, there were at least forty different Indian food items available in the spread. These included Dal- Khichdi and Malvani Fish!

With more and more Indian professionals becoming financially more comfortable at a young age, they are going to travel more, and I won’t be surprised if Indian items become very popular like Indian Curry and Indian Restaurants in the UK! Add to this, the children of Indians born in foreign countries; so, this number is going to become very big as keeping touch with home base  has become more comfortable with video calling and internet calling.

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By the way, we went out today to eat Pani-puri and Wada-Pav! But I had Wada-pav and Thali!  The joint is started by a French guy who got himself trained in Mumbai.The Chai was served the Indian cutting way.

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The day before yesterday, I had breakfast in a restaurant serving middle eastern food, on top of that it was vegan. There was some lovely omelette, another item which was like our Sanja and a dish made out of lentils with a nice bread! I had fun.

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Another thing I saw on Montreal roads. Public charging of EV’s is now available. My little knowledge of driving cars for fifty-plus years tells me that fuel tank and the lid are on the opposite side of where the driver sits. But the Tesla I saw being charged on the road, had the charging on the same side as the driver side! Can anybody explain to me why this would be so? All other EV’s seen in Montreal followed the normal convention!

Some interesting things like Puneri Patya!

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Should Hindi be imposed?

My friend Shrikant wrote on Facebook a very sensible note about an alleged imposition of Hindi all over India. He is a മരുമകൻ– son in law of Kerala. So, I presume that he is in a better position than me to comment. This led me to read the original statement made by Amit Shah, our home minister on the subject. The gist of what he said is in the statement below. 

Mr Shah said, Hindi is spoken by most of the people and can unite the whole country. He said efforts would be made to expand Hindi to different parts of the country but not at the cost of other languages. Shah later also said that the foreign language English is predominant in India, so instead why not Hindi?  

I have not understood the controversy in the statement. Shah has not said that it should be promoted at the cost of the regional languages, anywhere in the statement.  

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.  

Even 200 years back, India was not known as India as it is recognised today. Till then there were Rajahs, Badshahs who used to run their own kingdom. In those times, travel and communication facilities were inferior. Going from place A to place B would take hours if not days. With these limitationsthe bouquet of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals would remain disconnected with other cultures. The possibility of the merging of cultures must have been within a distance of about 50  to 75 km if the terrain was not steepWith rough terrain, that also would be difficult.  

1947 created India and Pakistan. British had started the railways; road transport had become better than before. Travel had become a bit easier. So some mixing of culture started automatically. If we consider only the state of Maharashtra, people spoke different Marathi in Bombay, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, JalgaonThe spoken languages were distinctly differentLocal dialects also merged with spoken wordsSo when we speak of Marathi, nobody is really sure Marathi of which region we are talking about.  

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So why then the emotional reactions about Shah’s statement. In the year 1978, I remember that in Bangalore we had shared a taxi for a tour with two couples, one Tamil and the other Kannada. We communicated with each other in English. What Shah has suggested, instead of English, why not Hindi? It is just a suggestion; does it amount to imposition? Central Government has offices in all the states and Hindi day is celebrated in each office, irrespective of which state it is. What is the point in looking at every statement from a political angle? Are elections the only important aspect in life? Kashmir had even more serious issues due to decisions taken by Britishers. But the government has resolved it in one stroke. Rules and regulations must be enforced but culture? No way, but who is forcing the culture? A statement made at a function was not a policy declaration. 

Culture seeps on its own. Let us look at the airports. A large number of people travel by air these days. For some reason, almost all CISF personnel are Hindi speaking individuals. You got to any airport from Chennai, Kochi, Vizag to Guwahati. They communicate many times in Hindi, but nobody objects to that. Idli-Dosa is the South Indian staple food, but it is almost becoming national food. You are out and want to have some food quickly. You go to Idli-Dosa joint in any city, and you are out in 20 minutes. Even Mcdonalds has not been able to penetrate their market. Has anyone made it compulsory to eat Idli-Dosa? Hindi films is another medium which merges cultures beautifully! When Shah Rukh dances to the tune of Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, the whole of India likes it, not only Tamils or Malayalis 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lungi+dance+video+youtube&view=detail&mid=4AAD8BE78B35602C090E4AAD8BE78B35602C090E&FORM=VIRE 

The so-called resistance to Hindi is in the Sothern States of India. Script for these languages is quite different compared to Hindi. But the alleged differences are historical as India became India for the first time in 1947! For reasons already discussed, these differenopinions were natural, and people thought that Hindi was being imposed on them. I will share one example which indicates the complexity due to the technological changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. The regional languages naturally could not keep pace with technological changes. The onslaught of technology was felt by German, French, Spanish and Chinese too! English has come back strongly and has now almost become a global language, thanks to Computerisation!  

The way languages world over are facing the issue,  our regional languages also faced the same problem. These languages cannot cope up with the technological changes. But WhatsApp and Facebook have facilitated all local languages to be used for communication. Thereby the feared obscurity of the languages is gone. Now people chat in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu; and many other languages. Those who are English educated but know the mother tongue, use the Roman script to communicate in their language! “Barobar ahe na?” (Am I right?) I wrote Marathi in the roman script. So, nobody is going to kill local languages.  

How rich the regional languages will remain, depends on people using itAfter all most people “think” in the mother tongueDon’t worry too much. Tyre repair guy will be mostly Anna from Kerala! Idli-Dosa guy will be from Udupi! Recently I have observed that in the construction business, Bihari workers in Pune are being replaced by those from Bengal. In the hospitality industry, we see many ladies from North-East states working in large cities and even in distant hill stations like Mahabaleshwar. But mind you, most of them are conversant with the local language when their stay is long enough, but they also know Hindi!  

One thing we should never forget that language richness, quality and type changes with era. What was considered classic when I was in school, does not appear so today. The same thing is true with songs and movies too! Yesteryears classics seem a bit naïve today! Today’s generation loves today’s classics better than classics of my school daysThere is nothing wrong in that; tastes changevalue system changes! 

So friends, don’t get excited and start slanging matches; don’t begin your protests. Go and see a Hindi movie or a Tamil movie! You will love it! Nation’s unity is more important, not the regional language! 

Montreal- musing of the day to day life!

Nowadays travels have become more relaxed, comfortable and all of us try and create our bucket lists of things to do, places to visit. But one of my bucket list items is to try and understand the details and issues of living in different countries and cities. At my age now there is a zero chance that I would live in any other city than Pune. I am taking this opportunity of my longish stay in Montreal to understand the local details. Everybody writes about Niagara Falls, Golden Gate Bridge and Eiffel Tower, so I thought I will jot down my observations about day to day life in Montreal.

All over the world, basic things remain the same; human nature is the same. It is the reactions to the events, dialogues that make the difference. Human emotions and conflicts will always be there. It has nothing to do with the city, state or nation. But one interesting statistic that I read about Canada says that the crime rate compared to the US is very low, which makes life safer and the cities more livable.

It seems that there is a unique donation culture in this area. The boxes shown are to put the items people want to donate. From these boxes, the needy people can take whatever items they want and whatever quantity they want. The remaining items are taken to the shop. The shop mends the items, and these are then sold in the shop as used stuff at a very reasonable price.

Road repairs are a regular activity in any city. Depending on availability, technology is used to perform the activities. On the street where we live, major pipe repair work is going on. The first thing noticeable is how the safety of people is handled. After the digging is completed, wire mesh cages are put around the dug area. For one day, the water supply had to be stopped entirely. Two days in advance, every house was handed over a letter about the same. Small flags were put (middle photo) indicating which pipelines are to be changed and which were not to be touched. There were parking restrictions from seven to seven; proper no parking boards were prepared in advance and put everywhere. Also, bright colour markers were placed on the road to indicate the presence of safety cages.

Local transport of course changes with the city to city!  Montreal Metro and Bus service have a common pass which makes it a composite service, no big deal. But what I found interesting was that to buy that pass, I had to buy a ticket called Opus. It is valid for seven years, whether you are a citizen or a casual visitor. So next time when I visit Montreal, I only need to do the top up! Modern cities are expected to have different arrangments. But what I found interesting was the availability of cycles, electric cycles and electric scooters, like the ones used by kids. These are readily available, and like rental cars, these can be taken from a place and parked where one finishes the trip. These vehicles have marked areas with cycle stands. Using an app, these can be used by everybody.

One thing I am going to enjoy is the leaves changing colours. I have seen this change in Boston, Maine and Seattle area. Though we know why and how the colours change, each region has a different kaleidoscope of colours. The leaf above is what I found today, and the blood-red colour is marvellous! It is the famous maple leaf of Canada! I will share some more pictures later when autumn sets-in!

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Many western countries have arrangements in public areas where wheel-chair access is provided. In Montreal,  I found it on each footpath at the end of the footpath, there were slopes, which allowed easy access to wheelchairs, cycles, prams, electric scooters, and so on. On each footpath, there are poles provided to tie-up your cycles.  It is no rocket science but detailing is where these arrangements succeed! We know about the sad story in Pune when such cycles were made available, recently.

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During the third week of October, there are federal elections in Canada. I remembered our election campaigns, but here I saw only small posters of the candidates hung on the poles on roads or I saw one small sticker fixed in a bus. On further checking, I was told that the campaign is mainly done on radio shows where the candidates give speeches or have debates. It is about the thought process. I remember having read an article by one of the leaders of a very aggressive party in India. He had gone to the US for the first time with a delegation. In the article, he wrote, “How do people make protests here? How do they take out processions? I could not see a single area where stones were available for pelting.”

There are of course equivalent of Deep Mini markets available for buying day to day stuff. But these are much larger though they may not be from a chain of stores. Standard facilities like trolleys and baskets were visible facilities, but they had provided entry and exit doors with motion control sensors. Doors opened with a motion sensor so that people going out with bags or a trolley found it easy. Again no rocket science! Yesterday we wanted to buy an item which we could not locate. Their employee spent 15 minutes with us and found it; it was worth only six dollars!

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Since many people don’t use cars in Montreal, I saw many of them using a trolley. You buy your stuff, fill up your trolley, and you are on the way though there was one difficulty. In certain areas in the Metro system, escalators are not provided. One has to pick up the trolley and take it up or down! I asked my daughter how does she manage this when going with her daughter. Yesterday I helped her carry on the stairs. She said that she uses it only when her husband is with her!

I feel that modern society is one where detailing is done for the comfort of people who live in the city, these need not be fancy or elaborate. These are to create ease in our day to day chores, like buying, throwing garbage, managing road repairs! It has its humane angles where poor and needy are also looked after, and there is a system for that. I saw a young Gora beggar who looked fit, was about 30 but these things probably remain the same world over. Why this would happen in the advanced world is a surprise. Those who want to work can get a job in these cities; they have almost free medical system for all citizens. We talk about the diversity of people in India and our cities. But slowly, I see similar diversity in many so-called western countries due to migration and refugee issues. But one thing you need to do, assimilate. My daughter is in Montreal, Quebec, since three months. Here the first language is French. Her immigration advisor told her, “Doctor, you will be dealing with the local population so you must know French well. You start work after you have mastered French.” In three months she has picked it pretty well and understand at least 80% of what is spoken when she goes out. By the way, the Montreal population is about one point eight million!  One important thing, people looking at their phones on public transport is much lower about 35%!

Canadian siesta!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

My nephew Atul used to go to the UK to work as a doctor. He would go for a small duration, and every time he went to a new place. The English spoken in each area was so different that he sometimes wondered if he knew English at all! It took him a couple of days to get used to the pronunciations. In today’s world when your whole family may live world over but for that we all must understand the nuiances of human behaviour. We should not be judgmental about other people’s ways, rituals, methods and their way of life in general. Those who assimilate faster where they go can then say, “The World is my Oyster”!

The nature of humans, their behaviour, their way of handling life is different. We have similar differences in India too! Like Marathi spoken in Pune, Satara, Kolhapur have their distinct flavours and dialects. Aurangabad and Nagpur have their own variants. It all depends on the culture prevalent in that area. Aurangabad was more connected to Hyderabad and Nagpur is still more attached to Madhya Pradesh though both are in Maharashtra.

I was wondering why this happens, and there are reasons. Many times, the culture depends on the construct of the language spoken in that area. English is by far the most flexible language and has absorbed many words from other languages, mainly from Indian languages. It makes the language more vibrant, and people can express what they want more clearly.

French usually give a vague answer to queries, and they may start with a reply which may seem negative. The reason for this is that the French language has 70000 words compared to 500000 words in English. So answers in English can be more precise, where French replies are vague. The first and most important NO in French is the one that means ‘je ne sais pas’ the ‘I have no idea’ NO. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the NOS encountered are to conceal a lack of knowledge. It likely comes from the terror of ridicule for being wrong. The word non in French has its roots in the French obsession for protests. “The French Revolution was about the irrevocable right of all citizens to refuse, and ‘non’ has a quality of ‘revanche des petits contre les grands’ [revenge of the underclasses] that seems to satisfy the inner peasant or proletarian in every French person, of any class.

The unique Indian gesture that often leaves visitors to the country flummoxed is the Indian nod. One thing all travellers to India talk about – apart from the dreaded Delhi Belly, of course – is the great Indian head nod. It’s not exactly a nod (up and down from the neck, meant to indicate ‘yes’) – or a shake (straight side to side to convey ‘no’). It’s a smooth movement that involves tilting the head from side to side vertically, either gently or fiercely. Does it mean a definite, yes? Is that a kind no? A maybe? A sign of uncertainty? Annoyance perhaps? It is difficult to say without knowledge of the context. It is almost always a ‘yes’, or at least indicates agreement. “There is also an element of being friendly or being respectful, and it is difficult to say which unless you know the situation.” Indians are brought up to be pliant and polite, especially to guests and to elders, and do not like to say ‘no’ directly. Indians mumble incoherently; smile sheepishly, and nod vaguely, all to put off making a firm commitment. Indeed, the head nod is a gesture meant to convey ambiguity and does so effectively.

Finnish people have different ways. Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. One of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’. But read the next surprising aspect of the Finnish people. With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off. Probably they don’t look at each other much while wearing clothes and hence don’t recognise them!

Germans and their language have different ways of expressing things. Many new words get created by combining more than one word. Schadenfreude means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude puts together schaden (harm) and freude (pleasure) – but this is common. Compound words often can’t be directly translated into other languages, so jokes made with compound words simply won’t be funny to non-German speakers. For example, look at this joke below.

“Why can’t you pick up your watch if you’ve dropped it? Because no Urheberrecht.”

It is explained that Urheberrecht means ‘copyright’ – but German has another very similarly pronounced compound word – Uhreberrecht – which has a literal meaning of ‘watch-pickup-right’. When spoken aloud, it’s the dual implication that results in a comical effect. In English, there are no such similar-sounding words, so English speaking people simply won’t understand the joke.

The German comedian Christian Schulte-Loh explains it well. Fully aware of the stereotype the Germans are labelled with, he writes in his new book, Zum Lachen auf die Insel (To England with Laughs), that Germans are too honest to be polite and the English are too polite, to be honest.

Why people behave in a certain way? Why people react in a certain way? One thing we must realise is that people world over are the same as everywhere else. The way we feel that the actions of other people as funny, other people also feel the same way about us. It is a popular notion in India to call a stingy person, Marwari! There is a reason. The Marwari people initially lived in Rajasthan in the desert region. It was the shortage of water and everything that made people care about using all resources. Now the Marwaris live all over India, they are a monied community, but their fundamental nature of minimum wastage has not changed.

I have seen that people in the Aurangabad area have a different way of communicating. People typically say namaskar whenever they meet. But in Aurangabad, I have seen people doing Adab, and their gesture is made in the way as is done in Muslim culture. Why is this so? Aurangabad is in Maharashtra. But the reason is that till ’60 s of the last century, there was no bridge on the river Godavari at Pravara Sangam. Bus from Pune would go up to the river, people crossed the river in a boat and took another bus from there to Aurangabad. Hence Aurangabad had more connection with Hyderabad, which has Muslim culture. By the way, one interesting observation. People from Aurangabad become परेशान  when they are troubled! A word typically used there.

People travel a lot these days, in India as well as abroad. I always tell friends to keep their mind open and accept what you find different in new places. Enjoy local food at those places. Go and see local plays and dances. The more we see these new things, the more we realise that people are the same all over the world!

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् is the apt term in Sanskrit, meaning the whole world is a family!

Learn or Perish!

The difference between humans and their ancestors is a tricky subject to deal with. Yes, we share ancestors with monkeys; we share ancestors with every living thing. But, also, to be clear: We did evolve from monkeys.  There have been different claims as to who our ancestors were. Though I have mentioned about the differences, I want to compare ancestor’s life and our life today, irrespective of who our ancestors were.

Most important difference is the concept of families and ownership. Even in humans this concept started only ten thousand years back, when humans learnt farming! Farming ensured that they changed their nomadic ways and started building more permanent dwellings which later became homes. This started a concept of ownership, then they started “owning” their women so the society started “knowing” who was the father of any child. This was a major evolution in human thought process compared to thinking of their ancestor. Still some of the basic things hardly changed, the life expectancy did not increase much. The increase in average life span is the story of 20th century; first half of 20th century this increase was in the developed nations and second half of the century, in the developing nations. Now in India the average life expectancy has reached a level of 65/70 years.

What is the effect of these changes? In olden times people almost never “saw” their grandchildren as most of the people died before the grandchildren were born. In the case of our ancestors, they did not even “know” who their children were, so the question about grandchildren never came in to picture. With ownership & family, concept of selfless love also started coming into picture. Humans with evolved brain and thought process started thinking differently than the ancestors. Ownership brought the thoughts of savings for future, owning a home, second home then… humans thought in terms of buying assets, storing things for a rainy day.

With ownership of farm land, selfless love was displayed while cultivating farm produce, fruit bearing trees and flower beds. People looked after them tenderly. Some of the large trees have lives longer than human lives, so these trees were passed on from generation to generation. Such trees went on to create local folklore. This thinking was never there with our ancestors because of low life expectancy. I am not an expert in this field but I draw this conclusion from the fact that our ancestors never settled and almost never saw their grandchildren.

There is a major difference between human progeny on one side, and the trees and flower beds planted by humans. In the first case, their birth just happens but in the second case these are specifically planted by humans. But look at the irony. Both are tended equally tenderly, looked after till they become self-sustaining. But the farm produce and fruits are cut and used for eating, tree branches are used for making furniture and for building homes. Whereas the progeny is supported till they are strong enough to be on their own and they are trained to take their own decisions about their lives. Especially after marriage, their own family and children, next generation becomes more and more independent. Humans are happy to see them go ahead in life. Humans keep on loving them life long!

The utility and work of trees, flowers and produce is over when we utilize them but in case of progeny they become more precious to us as they grow and succeed in this world. In both cases, we remember their babyhood, their childhood, their adolescence, their youth!  The longevity helps us to see the growth path of the progeny. In both cases the selfless love  creates many beautiful memories in our mind!

Trees, farm produce, and flowers teach us one thing. They are useful to us but we learn to stay away from falling in love with them as we know that when their work is over, they will part with us. For humans, this is a new thought process about their progeny.  For these reasons they were hardly trained, mentally,  for Old Age or Vanprasthashrama! There was never much need for geriatric medicine, this specialty simply did not exist. From what I have heard about olden days, old people simply hung around in a corner of the house and withered one day.

Is longevity bane or boon? This is being discussed in the society. In olden days, average humans simply died before reaching the stage of having grandchildren, they did not live long so there was never any requirement to save money for post-retirement life. Longevity with shortage of funds is a definite no, no! Is it a curse to human race and to the families? Longevity with money in the bank is ok. But there is a need for training programs to teach old people to look at the progeny, the way humans look at trees and flowers; limit yourself from their lives and go on with your own lives. Enter Vanprasthashrama, in the real sense as far as next generation is concerned. In Vanprasthashrama, our shastras say that we can travel! We should travel to our own destinations in life!

In the beginning of 20th century, concept of migration started, in a bigger way. Before that people moved to different countries to conquer and loot. British, French, Portuguese colonies are typical examples of migration backed by officialdom. 20th century migration is individual migration and is happening all over the world.  With children staying in different cities, states and countries, their extremely busy life style, their own families growing, humans need to train themselves to interact with the progeny when progeny has time. They need to train themselves to meet their progeny, at their convenience. Humans have to learn that they are not in the immediate circle of the progeny!

Humans have learned to deal with the issue of selfless love in case of trees and flowers; and they also know at what stage to withdraw and let go. Humans have to learn the same about progeny.  We may not be aware but the someone may already have developed a computer program to handle this, we only need to download it in our mind and start using it asap. We don’t need Artificial Intelligence (AI) for this, we are intelligent enough to know the right time to do it!

Motherland or Fatherland?

Mesut Özil  is a German professional footballer who plays for English club Arsenal. He retired from international football, very recently, due to discrimination he felt when Germany lost in this year’s world cup football at the league level itself. He came into limelight in 2010 world cup at the age of 22 and had lion’s share in Germany’s victory in 2014. For sportsmen, life is a big grind and with age their game becomes more mature, age does slow them down too. After Germany lost in league stage this year, murmurs had started about Özil’s poor performance but people forget that the whole German team had played poorly including in the practice games. In certain circles, there started a whisper campaign where it was said that Özil was not true to his adopted country. He has Turkish origins.

This campaign upset him so much that he said, “When Germany won in 2014, I was a German; now that Germany has lost I am a Turkish immigrant living in Germany.” In disgust he simply retired. This brings out the old questions about immigration. Since last century, immigration has reached epidemic proportions. Similar statement was made by Albert Einstein in 1922. He had said, “If my relativity theory is proven right then Germany will claim that I am German and France will say that I am a global citizen; but if this theory is not successful then France will say that I am German and Germany will say that I am a Jew!” This statement perfectly explains how the thought process in the world has hardly changed in such matters.

Özil is the son of Turkish immigrants and was born in Germany. The laws about citizenship in all countries are different; in the US a child born on US soil, irrespective of Visa status of the mother, becomes Citizen of US. Özil is born and brought up in Germany but as often happens he and his family have kept close links with his roots in Turkey. With sons of diaspora doings so well internationally in football for Germany, the Turkish President Erdogan used Özil for photo session opportunity! This started a bit of whisper campaign in Germany. Had Germany done better than what they did, there would have been no murmurs or whispers. France had about ten players with African origin in their world cup winning team. Comedian Noah of South African origin had commented in a show, “Africa has won the world cup!” French Ambassador to US, Araud, rebuked Noah and wrote to him a twitter message, that Noah had misunderstood France’s cultural model. France had won the World Cup which helped the Ambassador take this view. Official French statements differ when France is attacked by French citizens of African origin.

Where should the loyalty of immigrants be? Where is the loyalty of immigrants? It’s a tough call and there are different ways of looking at this. The loyalty issue will be faced by first generation immigrants. Generations after first, will not face such issues, as next generations will be born and brought up in the adopted country! Proliferation of technology, especially internet, has changed things drastically. In 60’s and 70’s of last century, people who migrated to different countries traveled back home infrequently. There was no WhatsApp, no Facebook and no Skype. So, communication was difficult and expensive. In early 80’s when Jaya was in the US for her MS, we did not have phone at home. Jaya would write to me to fix up telephone call timing at someone else’s home. I would then go to their home and hoped that we got connected.

With fantastic changes in communications, democratization of people’s finances, due to greats strides in IT industry things are pretty different in this century. People are fully connected, people travel back home regularly, parents and aunts and uncles also travel to different countries where diaspora has moved. The diaspora keeps local traditions, recipes and clothing styles alive even in foreign countries.

With these changes, probably it is difficult for first generation immigrants to shift loyalties to land where they live! In Indian context, will they sing God Save the Queen, Star Spangled Banner or Jana Gana Mana more forcefully, more from the bottom of heart? It is difficult to say. Recently, English cricket captain made a telling comment. He said, “These days when we play against India, whether in India or back home, advantage is always with India because for them both places are “home” due to great support they get in England too! Large population advantages?

30 years back, I remember a discussion when someone said in England that the real test for immigrants should be whether they clap for or against England. But now things have changed so much that such discussions are never even attempted.

Back to immigration. Which is your land the Fatherland where you have now immigrated or Motherland where you were born and brought up? Where are your loyalties? I have observed especially about Indian diaspora that they make handsome  contributions to the Fatherland but they don’t forget their Motherland too! It is as if they have duel citizenship, mentally. Some modern “financial fugitives” actually have citizenship of many countries and move their assets and body to escape the law of land which gives them trouble. Country like India have started many new schemes to tap the potential of diaspora by providing them with cards like Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards to make life easier for them when and if the want travel to back home, invest money in India, maybe take part in elections. Mother countries are bound to wood their prodigal sons. Many a time it is seen that people shine better in their Fatherland due to various factors. Their country is bound to take advantage of their roots back home.

Many a times I wonder what will be the mental status of fourth generation diaspora? What will a Aniruddh Kulkarni, fourth generation immigrant, who may go by informal name of Andy CoolKar, feel about Motherland? Will he really feel the same love about then too distant a motherland, mentally? I get a feeling that the Caucasian immigrants may find it a little easier to merge in countries which are predominantly Caucasian. But now these things are also changing fast. Caucasians (is by today’s definition West European?) consider themselves different than the Hispanics, people with Spanish/Portuguese background but normally living in South America. Will countries become melting pots like New York city is? Or will there will be street signs in Spanish and Chinese and maybe even in Telugu or Hindi in some towns in foreign countries? Which will then be the Fatherland and the Motherland? Tough call? 強硬電話, Llamada difícil, कठिन कॉल!

Özil’s of the world, then do not be so emotional and retire! The whole world is your playing ground buddy!