Win-Win situation!

In life, there are many things which need a bit of tweaking or thinking out of the box. By doing so, the situation sometimes improves by some percentage and sometimes drastically. Businesses or offices want their efficiency and profits to go up. Humans wish to have a better work-life balance. Many times, these things do not happen because organisations don’t want to experiment. Status Quo is always good!

Recently I came across a couple of articles. One of them is about a  proven system, and the other one has been tried only for one month.

Around 1995, in the state of Quebec in Canada, the state government started implementing a scheme. In Quebec, French is the first language. Like all other states in Canada, there are a lot of migrants in Quebec too.

But because of French being the primary language, many ladies remained unemployable. In addition to that, there was a problem with looking after the children. Quebec is the only state who came up with a great solution. Till 1995, about 15% of  Quebec ladies used to work.

The solution was interesting. The government started offering French tuition to people either a part-time course or a full-time course. Those attending the full-time course and who were required to keep their child in a creche were paid up to CAN $1100/ per month. The payment made to these ladies encouraged the ladies to attend courses. The number of ladies attending classes increased very fast. As they learnt French, they started becoming employable. But where is the win-win situation?

As the ladies started working, many of them got jobs; they started earning salaries. In Canada, there is a high income tax, and it starts from the base level; unlike in India, where the certain initial amount can be earned tax-free. With the French education scheme, now the % of ladies working has gone up to 80%. It indicates that including men and women, the number of people employed has gone up substantially. It also shows the business activity, and the economy size has also increased. Now the Win-Win situation. All this larger working population started paying income tax. What the government did was to spend money on people to make them employable, and the people are paying the money back to the government by way of income tax. It is now well documented that French tuition scheme has become a great success wherein both the government and people both are benefitted.  The government gets back the money Canada spent by way of taxes, so almost nothing goes out of their pocket.

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Another similar story I read recently about Microsoft, Japan. They wanted to implement a four-day week work for one month, and they declared that all employees would have five Friday’s off during that month with full pay. There were 2300 employees involved in this experiment under the name of “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019”.

The shortened week led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. As part of the program, the company had also planned to subsidise family vacations for employees up to ¥100,000 or the US $920.

In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial. The vast majority of employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week.

In 2018, New Zealand trust management company Perpetual Guardian trialled a four-day workweek over two months for its 240 staff members. Employees reported experiencing better work–life balance and improved focus in the office. Staff stress levels decreased by 7%.

During the last 15 to 20 years, with the advent of computers and cell phone, the culture of “always-connected” started. Blackberry made it even more complicated by bringing the corporate email on their devices. During the night, it was essential to embrace Blackberry rather than your spouse! The global companies operated 24/7 and night time washroom break turned into one-hour email exchange session. In short, the work-life balance went for a toss. The importance of the person in the organisation was based on whether he or she had a Blackberry! The situation worsened when all smartphones could easily do what Blackberry did and more! Blackberry has now become history, but it established the culture of 24/7 into 365 days!

Are humans physically and mentally designed to work in such a culture? The answer is plain, no! Medical science says that humans need to sleep eight hours every day to work efficiently. But with global companies typically having offices in the US, in Europe, in India and China/Japan/Hongkong area, interdependent work is being done 24 hrs a day. So, on a conference call, people would be talking at 8 am, 5 pm or 1 am from different time zones.  Such calls were routine during 2-3 days in a week. On weekends along with picnic hamper, battery-pack became an essential item!

Thank god the people have started understanding the effects of imbalance, though the progress in the right direction is slow. The result of such endless working, round the clock, throughout the year brought out a lot of family issues plus health issues. Sudden heart failures, stroke or nervous breakdowns were classic symptoms. Business and offices are to be run efficiently and for better profits. But was working 24/7, 365 days the solution?

The answer is no because the human body and mind cannot sustain such situations. The new life-style added travel requirements to increase. Now, people have the internet available on flights. Before this availability, people had at least some time to themselves away from the Internet!

The experiment in Microsoft Japan is a life-changing attempt to make life easy and less stressful for everybody. Every family has its things like quick picnics, getting repairs done at home, going to attend PTA’s (Parent-Teacher Association) in their children’s school. Maybe they want to go and see a game in which the child is taking part. Once a week you may wish to take your child for music class. Over the weekend you would like to meet your parents.

Living life is a mix of work, making money and many many other things. But if you do not get the time for anything else other than work, it is not worth it. Organisations have started realising this critical aspect of life. But global organisations have offices in all continents. So, there will be issues of synchronisation. But if there is a will, it is doable. Bajaj Auto has managed to do this synchronisation in their plants. All their plants are shut on Sundays!

Microsoft, Japan’s one-month experiment, has shown very encouraging results. If it is done in the long term across the company world over, the results may not be as good as they seem at one location. There could be contradictions; there could be difficulties!

But the feeling of having correct work-life is on the increase. I have been reading about millennials negotiate work from home facility, work hours to be put in weekly is also being discussed.

We can see that the Quebec system has helped people and state both in improving people’s life. New ways of doing work in businesses and offices are also being discussed. Such actions will lead to more happy people and happier world.

What will be the perfect method? There is nothing perfect in the world, but it is good that the discussions have started in the right directions. Let us hope that people and systems will begin thinking out of the box.

It is itself Win-Win situation as far as I am concerned.

Migration, Human and Birds!

Migration is a phenomenon that is happening since times unknown. Till permanent human settlements started, there was hardly any difference between human migration and migration by other species. Out of different species, birds are known to travel long distances for the reason of saving themselves from severe weather conditions. The species who could not fly had limitations of how much they could move to overcome harsh conditions. Humans must have also faced the same problems as these species. 

Polar bears handle the harsh winters differently. Nature has designed their body in such a way that they can prepare themselves in advance. The polar bears go into hibernation when the severe winter conditions begin. They go to sleep literally in caves, up to four months. They store enough food in their body and can go without food during hibernation. No other species hibernate like the bears, as per my knowledge. Turtles and other species are known to go to specific spots to lay their eggs, every year. Probably they “find” their “safe” area to lay eggs.  

Many birds like flamingos are known to travel thousands of km to protect themselves from harsh weather. It’s God’s design that has given the birds instincts and “GPS” to fly far away from their natural habitat. Human migration is a different phenomenon altogether. When did the human race move away from their nomadic phase? Once they started designing and creating various modes of transport, the migration process started. But the reasons for human migration very rarely have been the weather. In very few cases, human still moves to different locations during harsh weather conditions. It may be snow, rains or the harsh Sun! But now the reasons are many and varied. New ideas for migration keep getting added. There are so many aspects to non human migration,  maybe I will write separately on that subject. 

In migration between humans and other species, the main difference is the feelings, human bonds and the alienation that humans feelFor humans, ithe initial phase, migration started from adventure, to look for El Dorado, education, for jobs! Europeans travelled to the east to take over colonies to spread their empire. Reasons like political asylum or refuge to different countries to run away from wars or despotic regimes have now been added. Humans don’t mind going to places where the weather is harsh for improving their careers and leading better lives! My current sojourn made me think about how humans deal with the mental aspect and social aspect of life. It made me think about the assimilation of humans with the new society. It is about the social aspects of keeping in touch with friends and families back home. It is about keeping your own culture and taking part in the new culture. 

Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first wellknown migrant who went to the US to take medical education. I can’t even imagine how she must have managed it in those days. Anandibai died young at the of 22 in the year 1887. So naturally, we do not know what she went through in those days and how she handled it. Compared to the current level of communication, in those days, there was zero communication or as good as no communication. How must she have handled the initial phase after reaching the US? Did she have enough money to eat every day? Did she have sufficient warm clothing for the winter? I am sure she must have been a vegetarian, so what food did she eat in those days?  

Especially in the US and Canada, migration is nothing new. The countries came into being by the migration of the British, the Spanish and the French to that vast landmass overcoming and initially killing “the American Indians”! These countries came into being with war and migration — the main aim of reaching the landmass was to form the respective colonies.  

Since early 50 s of the last century, many people have been moving around the world, but large percentage move to the US for obvious reasons. In olden times the communication method must have been by postal mail, in today’s language snail mail. Telephones were rare in India, so communicating back home must have been difficult. know of someone who called his parents on the phone (parents had a phone at home in India) only once in fifteen years when his twins were born!   

Jaya was in the US for one year for her MS in 1980-81. We did not have phone at home in Pune. Jaya would send me a letter to fix the time on which she would call me at someone’s houseWe considered it lucky if we got connected within one hour of the set time.  

With pathbreaking changes in communication methods, today it is effortless to remain in touch with eacother. These changes help the migrated persons to be in touch with back home, and the emotional umbilical cord remains intact, helping to settle down quickly. But I have known of extreme cases of the communication spectrum.  

A classmate moved to the US in 70 s of the last century. He has travelled to India only once during these 45 plus years. I did not have the heart to ask him the reason, but from the discussion I had with him did not indicate any specific reasons– I did not probe. I know of a family who was at the other extremeTheir daughter moved after marriage. The parents would talk to her on the video chat for two to two and half hours every day for the first five years. I don’t want to become judgmental in this, but when are you going to make your children independent? I know that this same girl would have two to two and a half hours discussion or much less with her parents in a week, when she was in India.  

Migrated families have their practical difficulties. As they grow, so do their children. Those who have managed to remain connected with back home, they come for marriages and deaths in the families. That also later becomes difficult as they move up the ladder in their careers. They also want to take their family holidays in different parts of the world. Their connect becomes weak depending on case to case.  

Many people of my age now come back home to be away from harsh winters from November to March. But this is going to happen in people of my generation. How much connect will remain after we are gone is difficult to predictI always wonder how much relate will the thirdgeneration Panvalkar or Kulkarni will have with India?  

Frequency of coming “home starts reducing from one year to two years to maybe even five years. Such things can happen when parents back home don’t die early enough and get restrictions on travel. When these physical meetings start reducingI have seen in many families that the mother is waiting hoping to make that favourite dish, their “child” loved thirty years back. But the child does not have time when in India because of other commitments.  

Each individual, each family, handles these issues in their unique waysbut one thing is sure the situations will remain in flux and will keep on changing, which to me, is natural! How to handle such things? What is the magic wand? Where is the magic wandBut I hear from many of my generation, that the magic wand  is getting developed under the name of detachment!  

  

 

 

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!

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!