What did “Howdy Modi” achieve?

As you are aware that I am not much into political discussions. But to me “Howdy Modi” an event held on 22nd September 2019, at Houston, Texas was a game-changing event in the history of India. I am not bothered if Prime Minister Modi is from Party A or Party B. Till the end of the last century, India was that dirty country, under-developed, chaotic Place, and of snake charmers. We almost went into bankruptcy in 1992, till we were bailed out by a large loan against national gold reserves.

IT service industry was the first Indian show of technological prowess, well-proven by Y2K and India’s large English-speaking workforce. Rest as they say is history. Not everything is hunky-dory with us even today, but the significant change in our thinking and confidence of all us as a nation, is seen as a substantial change by the whole world. The change has not happened suddenly. There have been reasons as to why this is happening. People of my generation, those born just in 1947 or just after, were a docile lot as far anything foreign was concerned. But some of us were not as docile as they were thought to be. The change started with people like Sunil Gavaskar who looked international players eye to eye and would sledge back. Sachin Tendulkar was born in 1973, and his generation was even more confident; Sachin “screamed” with his bat. Today people of Kohli’s age create fear in the minds of players with their prowess, aggressive and polished behaviour when required.

Such changes started taking place slowly in every field. Finally, the real difference is observed in international diplomacy. In 50 s and 60 s of the last century, we were busy in NAM (non-aligned movement), the favourite baby of Nehru. It was frankly a group of nobody’s; they were neither on NATO side nor the Communist side. India had no identity, and we had forgotten the principle that it’s a power game in this world. But we had no power, including electricity; we were coming out of our problems post-independence and post-emergency. We were meek and weak, and our leadership reflected the status of the nation. We had the leaders we deserved.

During the last twenty-five years, India jumped the fast-growth groovy train. We managed good yearly growth of around 7 to 8 % for some time; even the current low rate of growth is still at about 5%! India managed to give the first non-coalition majority government in many years, and that helped the government to implement many schemes which supported the masses. India is also coming up with decisions that will help new businesses to come up and old companies to grow.

The complete change in the atmosphere was also helped by the strong leadership provided by Modi! Re-election of Modi in 2019 has further helped India to become more confident. We have a large diaspora living in various countries and doing well for themselves as well as for their adopted country. In the last few years, the Indian government provided simple procedures for NRI’s to acquire PAN card and now Aadhar card.

How is this helping India? With confidence, a person or a nation can take bold decisions, make bold statements. Others start taking you seriously and listen to what you say and do! After 5th August action on article 370, Rajnathsingh was asked about dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir. He boldly declared, “We will have a discussion with Pakistan, but it will now be about Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) only.” External affairs minister answered similarly on the subject recently. He said, “ We are willing to discuss with Pakistan but not with Terroristan!” Except for the terror aspect, Pakistan is not even there on India’s Radar.

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Howdy Modi was a Bollywood style show where India managed to invite the President of the United States to share the stage with Mr Modi. Some people may call it showmanship; some may call it histrionics. Some liberals have already started comparing this event with Hitler’s Goebbels style propaganda before starting the second world war. The above picture shows Nazi rally in Madison square garden; such pictures and dialogues are already being circulated by “liberals” on the social media. The comparison shows the beauty of democracy. Your own countrymen and your enemies are allowed to show dissent. Dissent was seen outside the stadium in Houston.

What did Trump’s decision to give a speech and then be with the spectators in the first row indicate? It showed that the most influential country in the world and democracy to the core is now actively backing India.  Mind you, many people hate Trump, but he is no Hitler, neither is Modi! As typically happens in world diplomacy, Trump had a meeting and a press conference with Imran Khan, Pakistan PM,  the next day, in New York. In this conference, Trump said that Mr Modi is capable of solving the Kashmir problem.

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I am not going to display any pictures from Houston show, but Imran Khan press conference presents a vital facet of the situation. While Trump was talking about Kashmir, Imran Khan was seen counting prayer beads. These prayer beads are called Misabaha. Imran was either hoping that now only Allah can help him and Pakistan, or was it a show for Islamic World that he is the most devoted servant of Allah and the leader of the Muslim world. Is this the same Imran Khan, the playboy, the Casanova of 80s and 90s? I have purposely not reduced the size of the picture so that you can see the beads in Imran Khan’s hands!

 

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I respect Anand Mahindra for his maturity, openness and sense of humour on Twitter. He has aptly expressed the feelings of all Indians in his Tweet above! If Anandaji says this, I am sure of many of us will believe in the effects of Howdy Modi event.

What next after all the showmanship is done? Next day in New York, there was a United Nations conference, Indian top brass met  top brass of more than 20 nations on the side of the meeting, mainly to discuss bilateral cooperation. Kashmir issue might have been discussed too! But India’s stance on Kashmir was boldly declared to the global audience from Houston meet.

Another important effect of Houston meet is that there were fifty thousand plus Americans of Indian origin present. They must have felt really proud to see their Bharat  projected in a very effective positive manner. The diaspora will become more confident and try to see how they can help push India’s interest forward. They now know that there is a robust system that is getting established in India under the current government. They see the effect of transparency by way schemes like Visa on arrival, Passport in seven days and so on. They are also observing the fate of corrupts and cheats irrespective of their social and political status. They know that the government means business.

In case if some of you are not aware of efficient ways systems are working, I will share two examples.

On the last day of filing Income Tax returns 31st August 2019, fifty lacs (5 million) returns were filed. In 24 hours we have 86400 seconds. It means on an average, 58 returns were being filed every second!

State Bank of India has a customer  base of more than population of many nations. Now they have started a new system for ATM withdrawals. Before leaving home, send a request for withdrawals (max Rs ten thousand per day) from an App. You will be sent an OTP (valid for 30 minutes). Go to any ATM, currently owned by SBI, punch your OTP, and you are done. Transaction time at ATM must have come down by 75%, is my rough judgement!

Jaihind!

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Modernity, Life’s full circle!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do you solve the problem like.. Cricket!

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How do you solve the problem like Maria? It is a lovely song from the movie “The Sound of Music.” The nurses from the seminary where Maria lived, were very much confused by young Maria, her behaviour and her persona! But still, they simply adored her! They didn’t know how to handle her. I have the same issue with good old Cricket! In my childhood, I lived very close to Mumbai’s maidans both Cross and Azad Maidan. The Brabourne stadium where the test matches were played in those days, was about two km from my home. Whenever and where ever we went to the grounds, there were teams playing cricket! Even though in those days when the kids were born, during growing up, they were inoculated! But all the kids caught the cricket bug for which no cure has been found. As I grew, I have seen that this bug has spread from Bombay and Chennai to Bangalore, Delhi then Kanpur-Ranchi, VadodaraMysore! It is just spreading without any control! 

In my childhood, there were test matches, Ranaji Trophy matches, and in Bombay Kanga league club cricket matches in Monsoon, on Sundays. One could see Umrigar, Ajit Wadekar, Ramkant Desai et al. playing on these grounds on Sundays. All cricketers were amateurs and used to have a tough time getting off to play matches when selected in Mumbai or India teams. Even in those days, Indian cricketers used to do their stint in county cricket. I remember having heard the tales from Maharashtra batsman Datta Kher about his playing in England. He would stay with his relatives in our condo when he went and arrived back from England. We used to view his cricket kit with open mouth and with awe!  

I remember having bowled to Hoshi Amroliwala in the nets on Cross Maidan. As I grew older, then we started to see new stars, of those days,  like Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Eknath Solkar. In those days there was an opening partner for Gavaskar called Ramesh Nagdev. He used to be a big hitter in the mould of Sachin Tendulkar. India lost his services as he migrated to the US at the age of around 20. Mahesh Khandwala was a fast bowler of those times; somehow, he fizzled out after initial burst.  

Cricket is like a close family member or a friend to many in India. It lives a stead life with sudden brilliance and surprises. When one thinks that there can be no more surprises in Cricket, it pops up something new. You Cricket also have a shady side of yours which disturbed many! You are called “Gentleman’s game” but sometimes you behave in an ungentlemanly manner!

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Cricket has rules and regulations; while understanding these rules, most are perplexed because of the absurdities. When the third umpire system was started on TV, the first victim was Sachin Tendulkar. (I am using the word victim) Sachin completed a run against Pakistan, and while collecting the ball, Shoib Akhtar inadvertently pushed Sachin out of the crease and removed the bails. Sachin was declared out!  

Cricket is the only game in the world in which matches used to be played without time limit. In one such test match in South Africa, England was playing with SA. The game was played over 12 days for nine days and had to be abandoned as a draw as English team had to catch a ship back home!  

For the Indian cricket team, the ‘60s and early ‘70s used to be fire fighting matches with occasional brilliance from an individual. When Gulam Guard got Sobers out caught on 29, it was time to celebrate. Chandu Borde’s 96 and 104 in Delhi against the West Indies were the peak of batsmanship. But then came a guy called Sunil Gavaskar, who changed the thinking in the Indian team and changed the way the world would look at India. Of course, there were occasional and sometimes not so occasional lows when India once got out for 42 in England in 1974. Gavaskar once played brilliant innings of 36 not out in a 60 overs one day match!  

Hey, my friend Cricket! You suddenly provide some pleasant surprises and sometimes you suddenly test the umpires. Don’t forget that these guys are human. You suddenly want them to interpret rule 19 (b) subclause iii! That too in the rush of things when a team is on the verge of winning the world cup! Umpires get confused! Have you forgotten that there are crores of Rupees or Pounds hanging the final outcome?  I am talking of prize money as well as betting money.

The biggest surprise you gave us was when India won the world cup back in 1983! Nobody in their dreams ever thought that India would win it! How many hearts were broken? How many British Pounds were lost? How do you manage to do this, my dear? Till then India winning any match itself was a celebration. India was trying their best to get eliminated and was five wickets down for 15 against Zimbabwe! Kapil played an epic inning of 175 and India won that match. In those days, this match was played in England at such a remote place that there was no TV broadcast. Hence there is no recording of this epic innings!  

You have funny rules is well known, but during 2019 the tie did create significant controversy. But in 2007 T-20 world cup final, India vs Pakistan, we had a similar issue. The match was tied. Do you remember how you settled it in those days? You asked six players from each team to bowl one ball each. Those who hit the stumps more won the match. We did not crib as we won the Cup. But is it any way to decide on a cricket match? How does this accuracy determine the final winner? But rules are rules, and the rules are known to the teams beforehand.  

2019 World Cup crossed all the limits of reason during the final. Who would have thought that the final match would tie and then the Super over would also be a tie? No point in discussing the rules but they are there! But the coincidence of double tie was most unexpected! 

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The most important thing was the way New Zealand captain Williamson showed his maturity and Grace! He never made any statement about luck. He knew at the back of his mind that they were joint winners, but on paper, they were runnerups! How do 30-year-olds become so mature? There must be something special in his genes! Luckily, the Indian team was not in place of New Zealand. In that case, there would have been riots in India, maybe a few suicides and some deaths due to a heart attack!  

The cricketing folklore is full of anecdotes, full of characters, full of excitement and full of boredom! There are only two types of people in this world. They either hate or love it. But you never ignore this strange creature called Cricket! 

I love one anecdote which I want to share with you. Gavaskar was the first Indian Cricketer to look foreigners in their eye. After the 1983 world cup victory, we won two more cups in 1984 and 1985. The cup in 1985 was won in Australia! Gavaskar was the captain of the team and was being interviewed. A foreign reporter asked him, “Mr Gavaskar, you have won three tournaments in the last three years. What do you want to say about this?” Gavaskar, in his typical way, asked him, “ Have you seen the movie Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and so on! Our victories were Fluke1, Fluke 2, Fluke 3! Thank you. Any more questions?” 

 

To blog or not to blog!

To be or not to be- Shakespeare!

To blog or not to blog- Pramod.

Doubts creep in the minds of everybody including Shakespeare!

We have a WhatsApp group of friends who passed out from COEP in 1971. After a lot of efforts, fights and bickering we concluded what should be shared on the group. There are around 140 of us. The main rule is that there should be no forwards. Friends are encouraged to write, paint, take photographs, sing and share this on the group. Suddenly one of our friends had doubts about my sharing the link for blogs written by me, with the group. He felt that I was breaking the rules and that I was “marketing” my blogs — all the friends who responded explained to him that there was some confusion in our friend’s mind.

But as usual my mind started thinking, why am I writing the blogs? What do I gain by writing the blogs? What are the benefits of writing blogs? Following are some of the reasons.

  • Because I love to write
  • Organise my thoughts and learn new things
  • Get in touch with new people
  • To tell stories has now become my passion
  • To become a better person

Are these reasons good enough? Yes, I think so. If you love to do something, then you must try to do it. My writing does not affect any person, nor does it disturb anyone. I do not indulge in controversial subjects. I generally don’t delve in politics as people have different and passionate views about politics.

Blog writing is both impulsive and compulsive. When my writing is spontaneous, my thoughts flow out, and within no time my blog is ready. But most of my blogs are compulsive. While writing these blogs, I have basic ideas in my mind, but my thoughts are not organised. In such cases, I need to think, and I must hold my thoughts; I need to research too. I must learn and understand the subject. For example, some of the blogs are based on Hindi poems by Gyanpeeth award winner Kedarnath Singhji. Since my Hindi is not strong enough, I need to understand the meaning of the chosen words he has used. Google baba ki Jay ho!

Blogging culture is slowly spreading in India too, and I have people who follow my blogs. Occasionally, they send their comments or suggestions. Sometimes they ask questions. I follow some of these people on their blogspot, and we become blogging friends! Most people who read blogs do not respond formally. But when they like a specific topic, they communicate and sometimes become nostalgic. They share their experiences. Such experience is fascinating.

I am a people’s man and love to chat with people. For a long time, I have found that I have many stories locked up in the brain. At the appropriate moment, these are automatically accessed. The storyteller in me wakes up, and with blogging, I get an outlet for storytelling regularly, and it’s fun.

Blog writing has made me a better person. Previously I tended to push my agenda, but with regular feedbacks, interactions, exchange of views has changed my attitude towards conversations. I have started understanding other people’s point of view though I may not accept them. Now I know that there are always two sides to everything except the birth and death events. With my conversing with many people regularly, I have learnt to introspect periodically. The love shared by people has a humbling effect on me.

There is another reason I want to share why I would like to keep on writing. My only thought and hope are that even if one person takes a different look at things, after reading my blog, it is worth it. I have recently written a blog about Umrani family’s endeavour to run a school for deaf and dumb children.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/one-persons-dedication-is-adhar-support-to-many/

After reading my blog, one of my friends from WA group got in touch with Umrani sir and donated some funds to the school. Another friend has also confirmed that he would also do the same shortly. What more do I want? Umrani sir called me yesterday to share this information and was very happy. I have suggested to him that he can put a link for the blog on their website. He liked the idea!

We are lucky to be in today’s technological world. We are also fortunate that longevity is helping experienced people (I am using a fancy word for oldies like me) to be around for more time on the terra firma. On top of that, we oldies have in hand all the time in this world. Those inclined to write as I do, share their experiences. Some take beautiful pictures and share them. Two people can click a photograph of the same place, but these can look different. Quality is based on the composition, angle of lighting and steady hands. My friends Abhay and Vijay make our life rich with lovely photos! Sudhakar enthrals us with beautiful paintings which are appropriate to current events, along with the right comments that he writes. Pravin has rekindled our memories from youth with beautiful songs by his troupe Swarnad! Collin is on the verge of publishing his first novel!  Another friend Vasant has been fully involved in social work and enjoying it; he shares what he does when we meet. What more do you want from life?

I asked the same question to me again, why do I write the blogs? Now I know the answer. The reasons are the same as taking pictures and doing paintings and singing songs. All these events give us joy! By joy, I don’t mean the enjoyment but contentment. It provides us with a feeling that everything is right in this world!

After reading my blogs, people have sent different reactions. In one of the blogs, I had said, “If you go to your native place, over a period you lose the charm, and you cannot relate to anything.” A  friend called me and said, “I become nostalgic and go to my native place every alternate year but as years pass it becomes more and more irrelevant.” My native place is Pune where I live. So I do not have this difficulty. But has Pune changed? The friend asked me, “How could you judge something from my mind?” I told him, “My thinking is that when we leave our native place for greener pastures, there is an old film that remains etched in our mind, and we go by that reference. Don’t forget that things change. Raj Kapoor has died, so has Shammi. Sunil Gavaskar is our age. But then we still see these people through etched films”. Don’t forget the even Sachin Tendulkar retired six years back! Feeling irrelevant is a natural thing to happen.

I am satisfied with what I write and looks like I will continue to do so. Shortly, I plan to go one step ahead and publish a book of selected blogs in about six months. It will keep me involved as well as grounded in what I do. Thanks, friend for raising a question on the group; the question activated my brain to think! Yes, thinking is what I like to do these days! I will enjoy doing it!

Now, I have no doubts in mind!

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Ram Mohan fun days in ’60 s! -Part 1

 

Folks  this was our prayer or our प्रार्थना in Ram Mohan School!

This week appears to be one full of nostalgia. At the beginning of the week, my school friend Pradeep Gavankar was in India; we met in Thane over lunch with friends. Later my brother Shrikant (1959 batch) came and stayed with me. Both live in the US, and both were in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum, Bombay. Naturally, we remembered and chatted about friends and the school. I am into a long nostalgic trip, and I thought the only way to try and come out of the trip is to write a few things in the form of a blog. So here goes.

I joined Ram Mohan in the 7th grade and passed my SSC exam in 1965. It was sheer fun all through. First and foremost, I was not a “scholar” and was considered one of the naughtier students. Most teachers were ok with the naughtiness. When I overdid it, it was gifted a slap on the hand or standing outside the classroom! After joining the school my first friend was Abhay Kelkar, he was very similar to me in most things. We had a great time all through those years. In a few days after joining the school, I had a reunion with Pradeep Gavankar who traveled with me on the same bus. There were rarely any school buses in those days; I would catch a bus at 6.15 in the morning.

Our judgment about teachers was restricted to understanding if they were interested in us; yes they were all interested. We were too young to understand as they were all excellent humans and humane to the core. But we rarely found any teachers who showed their human traits while dealing with us. The whole world was so bright, so shiny for us that we never realized that teachers could have had their problems in life. For us, nobody had any issues in this world.

Among the teachers, we had Kuwadekar sir, who had a great smile and would wear coats made of Sharkskin fabric. Then we had Ashok Karhade sir; he was very young and pleasant. He died at a young age, a few years later. We had Vaidya teacher, she was always smartly dressed, and she had different wristwatches of various shapes. That was a real novelty in those days. I forgot to mention. We used to call male teachers as “Sir” and lady teachers as “Teacher”!

I have seen the world, and I am now nearing 70. I can proudly say that we were lucky to have some outstanding teachers in the school! Mayekar sir for English, Joshi sir for Sanskrit and Kundaikar sir for Maths are some of the names that come to the fore. Pandit sir for Hindi was equally good. In those days, we did not understand much, but now I know the dedication these teachers showed.

I have some different memories of the Ram Mohan. Apte sir was my father’s classmate in S P College in Pune. When we went for a trip to Matheran while in SSC, he told me the story of how he remained thin due to some ragging during his college days. Wadke teacher never taught me as I came in Ram Mohan in the 7th grade. But I somehow had a special affinity for her as she was involved in sports activities on the grounds on Marine Drive. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate, but I remained in sporadic communication with her. More than ten years back she came and stayed with me in Pune, for a couple of days.

Another exciting memory that I have is an incident. On the last day of a month, one of the teachers could not take a class due to ill health. We made a lot of दंगा (noise). Kukalkar teacher was passing by, and she came to the class. She punished us by making us wait for the full timing of the school. On the last day of the month (it is called महिना अख़ेर in Marathi) we used to have half day school. After about 30 minutes I told all that I will manage to get us free. I went to the teacher and said, “ Teacher, we don’t have tiffin as the school timing was half day! We are hungry. Please let us go.” Kukalkar teacher was a very kind person. As I broke the rule by leaving the class, she punished me with two slaps on my hand. Then she said with false anger, “Ok! You all now go home!”

Looking back, the teachers had a lot of work besides teaching. There was administrative work about the students. Managing teacher training courses, checking notebooks for homework. Setting and correcting papers for four examinations held during the year. They used to help and guide students in elocution competitions, dramatics, annual gathering, sports. Ram Mohan did not have own ground, so we were taken to Wilson high school ground, a mile away from school! There we would perform marching practice. Marching practice was the responsibility of the PT teachers. That reminds me of Malekar sir! Outwardly he looked very tough, but if students had some personal issue, he would guide them with love. I met him once after passing out, and he was very  soft with me! He reminded how I used to be naughty during PT period too!

From the friends, I remember Prakash Naik distinctly. He used to play cricket for school. Later on, he played for Bombay University along with Sunil Gavaskar. He was very agile on his feet and a great prankster. He used to make paper arrows in class and had a good aim. Once a while, he would fit a pin the front! This made the arrow a lethal weapon. Another thing is that he would always be having bandages somewhere on the body. I remember one incident specifically. He had a fight with someone. Prakash was chased for two stories and was cornered in one of the classrooms. This happened during snack break. We thought that finally Prakash was caught by someone. You will not believe what happened next. Prakash simply ran towards a window, slipped out of it, he grabbed the rain pipe and slid back to the ground floor! All of us were aghast!

I remember that I used to remain away from essay writing competitions, elocution competitions. But later in my life, I had created a lot of documents. I conducted meetings and had to speak and explain various subjects regularly. When I picked up these skills, I am not sure. I find that blogging and essay writing are quite similar. But I remember one thing; even the school I was a good storyteller!

I can go on and on and on. I will share a great surprise I had in school. One of the teachers thought I was good enough to sing सुसंगती सदा…

Maybe that was the only way to keep me away from mischief!

World Class!

One keeps on hearing the word World Class, these days! What is World Class anyway? World Class means (an activity, a thing or a person of or among) the best in the world! The world is full of people, with thought processes or activities where someone is trying to do something or to produce something even better than its quality level at that time. This thought process came in my mind when my friend Shyam visited another friend Vijay’s manufacturing unit. Shyam said that Vijay has created a World Class facility. 

How does one become world class? How does one create World Class facility or products? Simply by being world class. To become world class, one needs to be open to the idea that there is someone always better than you! There is always something better than what you produce. You need design, product or service, consistency, ability to convince people to buy ideas or products at the price such that the organization remains continuously and highly profitable. The reason for this is that world class companies reinvest large % of their profits into R&D! This indicates continued resolve to improve on quality. Apple and Nvidia are such companies which are relentlessly going for better and improved products. They reinvest huge amounts in R&D. Another thing such companies do is to change their thought process 180 degrees, if required. Classic example is Microsoft. Once they realized that they will not be able to compete with Android and IOS, in cell phone arena, they changed their policies in such a way that they call themselves company making software products which are support systems for other Software companies. 

Talking of Vijay’s organization Connectwell, he was always thinking big and bold for more than 20 years. 20 years back the company was much smaller, but they were bold and could see eye to eye with large world class players. How did they do it? They have been taking part in Hannover Messe, exhibition of industrial products since 1997. This has been a huge investment. This shows that they have been profitable, bold and confident! I am sure initially they must have felt a bit down, looking at international competitor’s products. But they continued to take part with better products; I am sure the competitors must now be getting weary. Vijay’s continued and relentless drive to become and remain world class makes his company work harder, smarter and sharper!  

As against these, companies like TCS & Infosys have chosen to follow a different a path. I am not blaming anyone but it is a path that they wanted to choose. Recently, they used their cash kitty of 2 to 3 billion US dollars to buy back shares from public. If there were a threat of some other company buying them out, then it would be a smart strategy. But I feel that they don’t know what to do with the stock pile of dollars, they did not probably know how to profitably invest this kind of money to reinvent themselves. They probably want remain followers, instead of becoming leaders. There are Indian companies who have shown the hunger to become world class. Tally and Quick heal names come to the fore. They have relentlessly done things and kept their flag flying high with quality of their products!  

You don’t become World Class just like that. It is the people who make companies and societies World Class. Taking example from cricket, in the early 70’s Sunil Gavaskar, World Class diminutive Indian cricketer looked into the eyes of the opponents. He created a culture that Indians can become World Class. He was bold in his game but was a gentleman too! In early 80’s, after India won three consecutive major tournaments in three years, an Australian reporter asked him in an interview the secret of India’s success. Gavaskar asked the reporter, ” Have you seen the movies Jaws 1 and Jaws 2 and so on? ” Reporter was confused and said, ” I have not understood what you are saying.” Gavaskar said tongue in cheek, ” India’s success was same like Jaws, Luck 1, Luck 2 and Luck 3″. Gavaskar had in him to take on the world. Normally he showed it with his bat. 

Sachin Tendulkar story is even better known as he became a World Class act from the age of 16. He again was diminutive but his motto was practice, practice, and practice. He was never afraid to attack deadly bowlers looking into their face! He gave nightmares to the world class spinner Shane Warne! Sachin simply wanted to be world class. From these small islands of Gavaskars, and Tendulars India is becoming a super power in cricket and has created an assembly line of World Class players and the team! This is how nations become World Class. 

Whenever I travel internationally using Delhi or Mumbai airport, I can see that we have World Class infrastructure. Getting into other airports, I feel that India is getting better and better, in islands of supremacy. But this drive has to start in people, should percolate to more and more people. With success, we get confidence and confidence leads you to become World Class.  

What has people got to do becoming a World Class nation? Everything! If people are World Class, the nation can become World Class. To become World Class not everybody has to be World Class, but everybody in the system must be disciplined, knowledgeable in what they do. They should be passionate about what they do. It could be a policeman, it could be a pedestrian crossing the road. If you don’t cross roads by following basic discipline, the system gets chaotic. A construction site worker should be proud of his method of pouring concrete, the planner should be proud of the way he has planned. A grocer should be proud that he is not cheating his customers, profits will come automatically if he gets more and more customers because of quality of products he sells and quality of service he offers. His quality of service will improve only when all people in the shop are proud of the work they are doing.  

I will share with you how confidence about ones own quality helps. A team from India was to travel to Japan to visit an organization. They asked the hosts how much buffer time they should keep after traveling by Shinkansen before catching a flight. They got a reply that they need not keep any buffer because Shinkansen never gets late. It gets late only if  there is a major earthquake.

The system becomes World Class when the lowest denominator in the system becomes World Class, when the lowest denominator is proud of what he or she is doing! I see this attitude in many places world over, people will go out of their way to please the customer. Do we see this in India? Yes,  but only in islands. But for this to become a way of life, attitude of everybody towards public discipline, public cleanliness must change. This is because these are the most visible things in any society. We do see islands of such places in India but these islands must get connected and become a society of World Class things, services and products. It is Vijay’s of our society who have done it. Connectwell  (http://www.connectwell.com/global/home.aspx?lang=en&reg=IN) is doing it and I am sure this is passed on to the next generation. If all of us try to make an attempt, to make the small eco system around you, world class, it is doable. You can have surroundings around your home clean and neat; you can make your personal service providers like milkman, newspaper vendor, car cleaner, home support servants do things in a better way. Once they understand that it is doable, they in turn will tell their own eco system how to do things better. How to be relentless in improving quality of what we do, how we do. The chain has to continue.

It is pretty simple. When you wake up every day, tidy up your own bed….. yes, it starts with you. Make it tidy as if your work is going to be inspected every day! And yes, you yourself inspect it. It better be World Class!  

Developed or Developing?

Whenever there is a discussion about different countries, on any forum, countries are either referred as developed or developing. I have never been sure how such definitions evolved. India became independent in 1947 and became a sovereign country. We were under British rule for a very long time. We evolved as a nation slowly from socialistic thoughts of 50’s where we wanted everybody to be equal. 60’s evolved differently with humiliating defeat by China in 1962 war and stalemate war with Pakistan of 1965. 70’s made us a proud nation with victory in war against Pakistan but emergency and Indira Gandhi’s ego pulled us back leading to various things like bank nationalization. With Amitabh Bacchan the angry young man and Sunil Gavaskars subtle arrogance on the field with his bat, started evolving a nation which was less afraid to deal internationally. 80’s were experiments with democracy and beginning of Khalistan movement. During all these phases our economy grew at the rate of 2.5% which came to be known as Hindu rate of growth. 90’s brought forced liberalization due to severe economic setbacks but things started moving in a positive direction with emergence of IT industry and yes, Sachin Tendulkar! These two started making India more confident and rest as they is history!

In 2016 when rest of the world is struggling to grow, our economy is growing around 7% and that too for quite a few years. We see a lot of technical improvements, modernization, highways and vehicles and so on. With these changes India should be changing into a developed nation. But are we? Does the country become a developed nation with strong sustained economic growth? I don’t think so. Technology and modernity do not make a nation developed. According to me a society becomes developed when it evolves as a good matured society. A person can be a professional but person also needs to be a good human being. Otherwise that professional can be compared with India of today. Developed and backward at the same time.

I feel that the parameters that generally define a developed country is one where majority of people follow the rules and minority breaks them. Fear of law, good implementation, training from childhood, consideration about others are some of the reasons. The road discipline decides the developed status of a country. In a developed nation, there will be an odd motorist or two driving like crazy. But in our case it is totally reverse. A couple of weeks back I drove down to Mumbai. I was driving at the allowed speed limit within plus/minus variation caused by not having cruise control. In both my journeys not a single car stayed with me. All were above speed limit, between 25 to 50 km/hr. Mind you not a single car including Altos & Maruti 800’s of this world. Of course about 20% were zig zagging the lanes.

Queue anywhere in the world, is the standard method of waiting for your turn. We were at Frankfurt airport last year to board a flight to Mumbai with 95% desi crowd. As the flight was announced there was so much rush by passengers that five passengers who needed wheel chair support could not come forward to board. Staff had to literally push other people back to allow wheel chair passengers to go in first! Why? Why? Simple, as a society we are not developed. People knew that the plane is NOT going leave without them.

Pehle Aap, “you go first please” is supposed to be Lucknow nawabi culture. But try entering a train at Lucknow station. Is this due to fear psychosis of shortages that our society developed post-independence? We as a society feel that it is better to grab things before they are finished.

Wait at a signal anywhere on roads and you will find that Auto wallahs and taxi wallahs will use the stop to spit! Everybody knows that spitting in public places can spread disease.

In the year 2016, we have advertisements on our radios encouraging people to use toilets instead of defecating in open. In certain parts of our country it is considered “manly” to defecate in open rather than in toilets! How humbling and embarrassing it must be for ladies to use fields for nature’s calls! On one side we call women Goddess of the house and on other side we do not bother about life’s basic necessities. Sign of developed society? Poverty is one aspect but people just do not want to change.

In international flying, Indians are known to be notorious passengers. If free alcohol is served they will just keep consuming. They will keep on asking for some service or the other from staff. All these years, after so many flights, I needed additional service only once when I spilled a soft drink on my blanket. Otherwise I have never required any special service other than the standard ones offered.

Another way of judging developed status is by looking at the use of currency notes for transactions. In developed countries senior citizens still use currency instead of using cards, net banking etc for a simple reason that they find very difficult to switch over. Young generation almost never uses currency notes. My son may have a couple of dollars in his pocket at the most, at any time. I personally was required to use currency to pay for usage of a trolley at an automated machine at airports. In India, we pay in cash for SUV’s costing Rs.20/ lacs in cash. This indicates the corrupt practices used on a day to day basis. In developed nations corruption is of course there but it is usually in restricted areas; their money remains above board in tax heavens. Nobody buys a BMW paying $ 50000/ in cash!

We as a society should be proud of technical achievements, management achievements, and agricultural achievements and so on. We may have scored from B+ to A+ in these area. ISRO is a classic case of A+ on any scale and in comparison with the best in the world. But on social side we are from B- to F! Why is that so? I feel that it is simply because we don’t have empathy for others in our DNA. Add to that the sudden rise in income levels in the society. Handling sudden increase in income is more difficult than actually handling the money. Rich kids will throw notes at the policeman if they have broken some traffic rules. The policeman instead of charging him for both traffic rule breakage and trying to bribe the policeman, will just pocket the money.

We don’t want to change with times on social side. When population was small and there were no large cities and motorized vehicles, there were certain rules. We continue using the same thought processes in cities even today. We will just occupy space on road or a footpath and start hawking our goods. If encroachment team comes and takes away your stuff, we will do the same thing immediately or the next day, if we have money to procure goods again. Such encroachment is our birth right. Cars will stop in no parking zone with their drivers. I asked a policeman why these cars are allowed to be parked; he said it is ok to park as long as there is a driver in the car! Rules be damned. Buses will not stop close to bus stops because people come and stand on roads. Because buses don’t stop properly people stand on road. How to resolve such things?

Government’s current demonetization drive has caused hardship to people to exchange currency notes. The way people have handled the situation indicates that under certain circumstances we behave like developed countries. I am told that in Metro Railways in different cities people do behave in a much matured way and gives a feel as if you are in a developed nation. I can say that in pockets, we as a society have started behaving as if we are a developed nation.

Friends this argument can go on and on! But if we want to become a developed nation we have to change socially and in a big way! Here is something all of us can do. Don’t go out and preach. But we can help people in our own eco system to improve. For example tell your driver never to park in no parking area. Tell your servants about cleanliness. Tell your colleagues about empathy. While passing through a door, it should not be courtesy only to ladies but to all! Teach your children or grandchildren to say thank you and most important teach them to say sorry, when required. Do the same with your colleagues too and lead by example. There are many things which we can do but we need to start today!