9th November!

Mr Modi spoke about the importance of 9th November in his brief speech to the nation! He said, “On the 9th of November, three important world events have taken place.” I was surprised because I was aware of the Ayodhya Supreme Court verdict, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor. The third event was the fall of the Berlin Wall – this happened in 1989.

These three are significant events in history. The court verdict and the public reactions show India as a developed society and democracy. The Kartarpur Corridor opening is about the thawing of the tense relations between India and Pakistan. Fall of Berlin Wall signified the significant change in the relationship between the Western World and the Soviet Union led Iron Curtain nations.

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The Kartarpur Corridor is a border corridor between Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). The corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.

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The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Construction of the Wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off  West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. I am not going to discuss this point in detail because it is not relevant to what I am writing currently.

Ayodhya dispute is a well-known religious dispute in India, which started soon after India got independence. In the conflict, the Hindu’s claimed that Babri Masjid was built on the original place where Bhagwan Ram was born. For forty years, it continued and was always the flashpoint of hate speeches, claims, counterclaims, and sometimes riots. The issue was a point for the dispute in various elections. Hindutva parties would have rath yatras, which culminated into some fight or the other. All political parties used Ayodhya dispute as a strong point of argument leading to further tensions. All this culminated when Hindus finally merged at the Babri Masjid for sloganeering and show of strength. The situation went out of control, and the  Karsevaks came in large numbers and demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.

After the demolition of the Masjid, there has been tension in Ayodhya and around all the time. Some groups would suddenly land in Ayodhya, creating tensions. Based on this subject, there would be discussions, claims/counter-claims in the other cities, which would lead to riots. Political parties shamelessly exploited the human sentiments causing division in the society based on religion.

Ultimately this dispute ended up in the Supreme court. After arguments, counter-arguments, proofs provided by the Archeological Society of India, Supreme Court decided to have the hearings for 40 days every day. Based on that, the decision was reached, which was declared on 9th November 2019.

I do not want to write about the fairness, the correctness of the Supreme Court justice, after all, the Supreme Court is the final authority to decide disputes considering the legal aspects based on evidence and proofs. The judges are luminaries, and that is how they have reached the top position in their field.

I am thoroughly and wholeheartedly impressed by the way the nation handled the most critical day of the judgment. The government of India and the state governments had made security arrangements in such a way that they would be able to handle the crisis if it arose. I am sure the officials must have discussed with leaders of political parties and general dignitaries in the society the importance of maintaining peace, whichever way the result went. People were advised not to celebrate overtly. The judgment was not a victory or defeat for someone or the other. It was the resolution of the long-standing dispute which was being handled by the highest authority in the country.

In the days of social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, it is simple to spread false stories and rumours. Police Authorities had sent the circulars warning people against spreading the wrong information and rumours. From what I read in the newspapers, a minuscule number of people were arrested for playing mischief.

I think it is a good sign for India; it indicates that we as a society are finally maturing. The absence of over-celebrating, not putting up the banners about the victory of community A over community B, shows that we, as a society, are learning to understand the importance of restraint! The Supreme Court judgment was the judgment of national significance, and it has brought out the sensible and humbling behaviour by society in general. Of course, there are extremists on both sides of the judgment, but they also have behaved sensibly because of maturity or because of the fear of action that the police might take.

Many times it has been observed that during important events or incidents happening in the country, it is the political parties who behave immaturely. When the government decided regarding Article 370 in Kashmir, some parties still made politics out of that act. The act was of national importance, Those opposing the action could say that action is correct, but it should have been handled differently. Suggesting different methods of handling the situation is one thing, but talking against such an important matter is incorrect. For such vital events, the whole nation should be together, forgetting their difference. Both these situations were almost equal to the war-like situation!

After Article 370 decision by India in Kashmir, the relationships between India and Pakistan have reached the nadir! Against Pakistan’s anti-India propaganda, the Indian government has shown maturity; the major nations in the world have been explained the situation, and most have supported India. But on the side, Pakistan had declared before 5th August that they would open a four km path connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). Pakistan has finally shown some maturity and has kept up its promise. The path was opened to pilgrims on the 9th of November, the same day as Ayodhya’s judgment. Is it the indication of the thawing of the relationship between Pakistan and India? I hope so!

The nations and societies mature and progress over a period. It will happen only when the governments act maturely and responsibly. Taking a posture or giving immature reactions don’t resolve any issues. Pakistan has to accept the ground reality that most of the problems with India are due to terrorist camps that are allowed to flourish in Pakistan. If they take action against terrorists, most of the problems are solvable.

Let us hope that there will be many more 9th Novembers in the future which will resolve long pending issues between nations, political parties and society in general!

I thought you might like the link below. It’s about the Berlin Wall!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50363404

 

Have humans improved?

I am not talking about technology or other advances. In the facilities and technology, we have improved. In poverty eradication, health, hygiene and medical sciences, we have improved.

Many advances reach low-income countries and people because of the different actions taken by humans. But I am talking of social aspects. Especially in the caste, racial and religious issues, though tolerances have improved, to some extent, it is difficult to predict when things will erupt.

Take the classic case of a football match between Bulgaria and England, a couple of days back. England team had a couple of players of African origin. The game was in Bulgaria, and suddenly the racial comments were being shouted by spectators. Things went out of control a couple of times in the first half, and the match was almost abandoned twice during that session. The police took control of the situation and threw out a  group of spectators. To the credit of Government of Bulgaria, their President acted swiftly, and within an hour of the match finishing, he suggested to the President of their football association to resign, and he did. World football Association will take further action on Bulgaria is the good part. But my worry is why such things suddenly erupt? Does it mean that such things are dormant and waiting for some spark to inflame the situation?

“Us and Them,” thought process world over has reduced, but bad situations erupt suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the world. It can happen in the most advanced countries to the most backward countries. In this respect, the world has not changed.

Today I read one incident on Facebook. It is written by someone known me and not the usual “forward”! A family runs a business, and their washroom is outside their premises, in a condo. Another family staying in that condo were to start painting their condo. About half a dozen workers were expected to do the work. The gentleman approached the owner of the business and requested him for the key to their washroom for ten days. When he was asked why he wanted their washroom keys, he said, “Those people will be doing the painting for about ten days. I don’t want them to use our washroom. Since yours is a common washroom used by your employees; I need the key.” The business owner asked, “Why not let them use your washroom?” The condo owner replied, “How can I let “them” use our bathroom?” By his logic, their own bathroom was too pure to be used by “them”! Hence the request was made.

The business owner politely refused the request, and the condo owner is now furious! The incident is a classic case of caste incidents that occur in India. The event is from a very “forward” city of Pune which has led India in the social reforms during the last century. Social reformers like Karve and Phule were from Pune, and they have been pioneers in the social changes. I am worried that if the incident mentioned above can happen in Pune, what will be the situation in smaller towns, villages? What would be the situation in socially backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

The world over attempts is always made to correct historical errors. But sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and things get overcorrected. The actions of the South African government post-apartheid regimen shows the result of overcorrection. The apartheid government collapsed in early 90 s of the last century. Rules have been made to reserve the seats for people of African origin — nothing wrong in that, we do the same in India. In India, in some instances, reservations % has become as high as 76%. Whether this is right or wrong only time will tell. But there are no reservations in sports or the armed forces. But in South Africa there is a reserved quota for people of African origin in their Cricket team- I am unaware of other sports. Due to this, many good cricketers who do not fit into the quota would never get a chance to represent their country. What do they do?

They take help of Kolpak ruling. What is Kolpak ruling? The Kolpak ruling is a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements, have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. Thus any restrictions placed on their right to work (such as quotas setting maximum numbers of such foreign players in sports teams) are deemed illegal under EU law. The legal actions in Germany set a precedent for professional sports in Europe, which have had a wide-ranging effect, especially regarding English county cricket and European professional rugby.

The South African white cricketers when they do not get the opportunity to play for the nation, formally retire and move to England and make contracts with counties. The counties are waiting for such players because they are excellent cricketers. I am aware that sports are a tiny part of our lives; so decisions can be quickly taken as a minimal number of people are involved.

In the US an attempt was made by a Supreme Court ruling, referred to as busing! The ruling made it mandatory for students from an area to go to the same school, irrespective of race. The attempt by the Supreme Court helped to some extent, initially. But then white people started moving from cities to predominantly white suburbs. Those who could afford put the children in private schools. These actions of white negated the effect of busing!

The subject is vast and cannot be discussed in details in a blog. But racial prejudice is followed world over, including in India, sometimes blatantly and most of the times discreetly. I know enough Indian people who live in different countries, and they have all said such practice is followed world over, not in any particular nation. The reason for such action may differ, but the act continues, and I don’t think that it will ever stop.

Religious discriminations have political reasons, and these are going to be tough to handle. Let us hope that people all over the world change their attitudes and live in harmony. But it is a serious subject that needs to be dealt; social media does not help in such situations! But let us hope that better offices will prevail and people will live in harmony.

Millennial Work-Life balance!

 

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The above image is eutopian image of working from home!

In the last thirty years, Work-Life balance has gone for a toss! But there are new generation Millennials who are changing the thinking — a millennial is a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.

Work-life balance is the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. Work–life balance consists of, but it is not limited to, flexible work arrangements that allow employees to carry out other life programs and practices.

The term ‘work–life balance’ is recent in origin, as it was first used in the UK and US in the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Work–life balance is a term commonly used to describe the balance that an individual working needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work–life can include personal interests, family and social or leisure activities. Technological advances have made it possible for work tasks to be accomplished faster due to the use of smartphones, email, video chat, and other technical software. These technology advances facilitate individuals to work without having a typical ‘9 to 5’ workday.

People who began working until the late 1980s were docile people and would accept all the rules and regulations of their workplace. Over a period of time, the demand for work and the employee time started going up and up. Through the 90s, the work graph started going up exponentially. Over a period, it became fashionable to be in office for ten to twelve hours a day, and later it became routine. Slowly the long working hours became the norm; going home at the regular time was jokingly called “half-day” leave.

These changes, plus long travel times, made work-life balance totally imbalanced. Competition in business and rat race amongst employees gave a different meaning to this imbalance. People were getting scared to take a couple of weeks of holiday with the fear that if work moved smoothly in their absence, they could become redundant. Such situations made life even more stressful.

I will share a couple of stories, which I may have shared in some other blogs before. A friend came to my house one evening and asked me if I could spend a couple of hrs with him. It was an emergency. We went out, and he said he was doing very well in his job, but his work-life balance was so disturbed that he did not feel like to going office even for one day. I suggested that he should resign. He did resign his job in a week and got an even better job but with better work-life balance.

Another friend went to the US for work for a couple of months. His daughter was unwell, and there was a significant repair work pending at home. One day we had gone to meet his wife. At that time, our friend called and told his wife that now he had to travel to Germany and he would be in Germany for three months for work. We did not know how to console his wife!

In the first story, the friend did not have a choice, but in the second story the friend was senior enough, and he could have decided to travel back home for a couple of weeks before going back again. Workaholic? Or Who cares?

But I am pleasantly surprised to read about the way millennials are looking at the situation these days. When they look for a job, they look for prospects, salary, benefits and flexible working hours. Flexible working hours are now becoming as important or even more important than the salary. Millennials look at the job as a part of life and not the central part of life.

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Each human has the responsibilities of the family. It could be some repairs at home, Parents-teacher association meeting, helping ailing parents, supporting the spouse when the spouse has temporary additional work pressure. I also agree that these are also equally important aspects of life. Human should continue to enjoy professional work, but if the work is going to prevent the person from fulfilling other responsibilities or having a yearly holiday, something needs to be done.

We read of many examples where people accept a significant pay-cut to achieve work-life balance. If the money you are earning can never be used for enjoyment or support family responsibilities, what is the point in making that money? For many people, work has become an obsession, long hours and endless struggle to aspire to do better in job. It has caused burnout, unhappiness and gender inequity, as people struggle to find time for children or passions or  any sort of life besides what they do for a paycheck.

But increasingly, younger workers are pushing back. More of them expect and demand flexibility — paid leave for a new baby, generous vacation time, along with daily things, like the ability to work remotely, come in late or leave early, or make time for exercise or meditation. The rest of their lives happens on their phones, not tied to a specific place or time — why should work be any different?

Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work in life — and end up redefining work for everyone else?

It’s still rare for companies to operate this way, and the obstacles are more significant than any company’s H.R. policies. Some older employees may think that new hires should suffer the way they did, and employers benefit from having always-on workers. Even those that are offering more flexibility might be doing it because current unemployment is so low in certain parts of the world, and they’re competing for workers, which could change if there is an economic downturn.

But such luxury is not possible for many people. People working on the shop-floor of the manufacturing industry, the police, the doctors and nurses, and many such workers cannot work from home whatever modern technology we invent. But the effect of millennials working for better and more flexibility will affect other sectors. Such cascading effect could make the life of workers better than what it is today.

Jack Maa of Alibaba had suggested to his workers to work 996. Nine to nine every day for six days a week. You may get a very high salary but when will you spend it? When will you rest? When will you have quality time with your family?

But the same Jack Maa has now suddenly changed his advice to work three hours a day four days a week.

https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/corporate/jack-ma-says-12-hour-work-week-could-be-the-norm/70892513

With technological advances, this is possible in specific industries. Probably people are thinking in the right direction. I am quite sure that once people get real flexibility in work, they won’t mind working a few times even while they are on a holiday. It is going to be possible because your work tools are available to you, 24/7 at the tip of your fingers.

Imagine you are lying on a seashore surfing both on the sea waves and on the net! A vital customer calls you and requests you to resolve his critical issue. Maybe you will do it because your company is taking care of your flexibility needs. So why not go out of the way and help the client?

That day hopefully is not far and it will be Win-Win situation for everybody!

Montreal Musings- day to day life II!

Since I am in Montreal for a homestay, visiting different places is more incidental than specific. I am trying to see how people, live, behave in their day to day lives is more important to me. Human beings are the same everywherewith some natural local and regional variances. To me, it is the interactions and actions that are more important.  

One very interesting facility was observed in a housing society made up of condos. They have kept an enclosed, empty plot. During nonwinter times, these plots are offered to residents for use. The plots are of twothree sizesUsers can plant vegetables, flowers, or whatever they want: the seeds and technical help is offered by a gardener available. The gardener helps and guides you as per your needs. For this period you can grow what you want and enjoy! What a novel idea! 

The buses have the swiping card system or for, onetime use, you have to put coins to get the tickets. Once a senior citizen was trying to swipe the card, it would not work. It was 2nd of the month. The driver asked the gentlemen, “Have you recharged the card yesterday on the 1st”? The gentleman had forgotten and said so. He said, “Get it done later today.” Subject over. Empathy?  

Many of you must have travelled to different nations and have seen the world. But to me travelling in a city in local transport is the best way of knowing small unique things. While travelling by Metro yesterday, we were in the compartment next to the driver. I saw guy entering the train with his bicycle. I was surprised. Nikhil told me, “Baba, it is allowed only during specific timings and only in that compartment where they had provided space for a few cycles. The cycle owner is supposed to stand near the cycle and not take a seat; even if the train is empty.”  

Yesterday, we went to visit the Botanical GardenThe garden is just next to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It was a nostalgic visit for Jaya and me. We were in Montreal in 1981 for two days. We had explicitly travelled to see the thennew Olympic stadium, which held the 1976 OlympicsIf you folks remember, that Olympic was famous for the super performance of Nadia Comaneci from RumaniaFor the first time in historyshe had scored perfect score of 10.00I felt a little sad that in certain areas the maintenance was poor!

Nadia Comaneci! Then and now!

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada!

 

It seems that Canada is way ahead of many countries in having beautiful gardens. I am sharing some photos for you. We had visited Victoria, B.C., on the west coast of Canada in 2016, as a part of Alaska Cruise. We had visited Butchart Garden then. That is the one the best Gardens, if not the best; we have ever visited. I am sharing some of the Butchart Garden photos too!  

Another observation was that in Montreal, I met many young Indian Diaspora during the Ganapati festival. I found that these people are working in different fields. One chap was working in Atlas Copco. A couple of guys were artists, not animation experts. A few were working in financeand a fellow was working othe logistics side of an engineering Company. I noted that one chap was working in Air Canada. Out of the people I met, only about 25 % were working in IT! It was a pleasant surprise for me.  

I have enjoyed the change of colour of leaves in Boston and Maine area; and also is the Seattle area. There the colour changes from green to yellowish to orange. Whereas in Canada, the Maple trees are predominant. The Maple leaf changes its colour to red; hence, the Canadian flag also has Maple leaf on it.  

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I had never bothered to check why this happens. There is a simple explanation though the science behind it is complicatedDuring summer and autumn, the leaves use Sunlight and Carbon dioxide the make their food. They also get water through roots. They create oxygen and food. The process is helped by green Chlorophyll which masks the other colours which are already present on the leaves and are seen when Chlorophyll goes away.   

Winter days are short and dry. Many plants stop making food in the fall. The chlorophyll goes away. Then we can see orange and yellow colours. These colours were in the leaves all summer, but the green covered them up. The trees survive on the food they have made during summer and autumn.  

Enough of science. When go out every day, I observe the changes in the leaves and their colours. Some become red earlier; some take more time. There are many shades of red that we can see. Not all the maple leaves become blood red, as we see in the photographs. One question always comes to my mind. Why do humans not follow the same discipline that is followed by nature? 

Another question always comes to mind about assimilation. How do “outsiders” assimilate with the culture of the country that they have adopted? According to me, this should be easy for people from India because we have different cultures in each state; we have different languages spoken in each state. Many people in North India have never seen the sea in their life, though India has long shoreline. I saw snow for the first time at the age of 35, when I had travelled to Germany in winter. But we have regions in India where there is regular snowfall in winter. But ultimately it comes to your openness, your adaptability, your will to accept change. I see people of different colour and creed, religions and languages in Canada. I am sure that those who assimilate live a comfortable life.  

Still, a month and a half more to go in Canada and I am sure I will have more tidbits later. I have read that average Montreal temperatures in October are 15 deg high to 5 deg low, sometimes even going to zero! So those are going to be different days in terms of weather. I never lived in these temperatures. About that, I will write later when I shiver through those temps!

À bientôt, jusqu'à mes prochaines friandises!

 

 

India Shining Silently!

Among the political upheavals, hyperbole things are changing in India, slowly but surely. There was a political slogan, India Shining,” sometime back. But India is silently shining. The surprising part is that the change is happening on the Engineering side of life. The engineering feats are not sexy like IT, where smart men and ladies market their achievements.  

I read a couple of news items today. I found them very interesting for a different reason. One of the articles was about railways, and the other was about DRDO. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-railways-piyush-goyal-premium-trains-rajdhani-shtabadi-5796304/ 

I will talk about the railways one first. When we speak of railways, we visualise historical systems, dirty platforms, and bogeys. In general, we get to remember inefficiency everywhere. But this article shares details about how a 20-year-old problem was resolved by Railway Engineering arm. The problem was about LHB coaches which were put into service; these were imported from Germany. There was a problem of coaches shaking, giving jolts while braking or at a higher speed. Railway team found a solution locally. There were about five thousand coaches involved. They replaced the Center Buffer Couplers with new design couplers. They also found that the usual braking method also caused these jolts. Hence they asked the drivers to use regenerative/dynamic braking system when speeds were above 30 Km/hr. With a combination of these two, jumping teacups and jolts have become history. There were 5000 such coaches, but with proper project management, the work on all of them was completed in two years. These stories don’t come out with fancy celebrations; these projects were done as part of routine practice. Great story to make everyone proud. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-israel-spike-anti-tank-missiles-drdo-5796306/ 

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The news above is another silent development of a highly complex military requirement of anti-tank missiles. Initially, the order was placed with Israel, who had a fierce competition with the US. This order was placed in 2014 for 351 launching systems and 8000 plus missiles worth US $ 500/ millions. Indian organisation DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) was also in the process of developing the missiles locally. After successful second stage testing at Ahmednagar, the government decided to cancel the contract with Israel and go ahead with DRDO under Make In India initiative. These weapons are highly sophisticated and use infrared technology which has been proven during testing in hightemperature regions of Rajasthan deserts. No fanfare, the sheer hard work is the key to such success stories. Again this is the story of excellent project management where DRDO will deliver all the systems by 2021 as per requirements of the army! Kudos to DRDO. 

At the end of the second world war, Japan and Germany had lost, and many of their factories and cities were destroyed. All the treaties that were signed ensured that they would not resurrect rapidly. But somehow these nations rose literally from ashes like the Phoenix bird! All this was achieved due to the dedication, will power to excel and love for the nation.  

India, as we know today, became one nation for the first time at the time of independence. With the diversity of people, religions, languages, cultures, it was like Europe or much more complicated. Getting people together itself has been the greatest achievement of the last century, though we do not realise this. India has another significant problem. Our diverse culture has been very mature and has an old history of thousands of years. So, specific thoughts and beliefs are ingrained very firmly in our minds. We take time to change. Added to this was the large population. That India has survived and prospered is a miracle by itself.  

Slowly, we have started to learn to keep the diversity at home and now work together with professional pride as a single proud nation. Reading the above stories gives great hope to me about our great nation and people.  

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The viaduct of Pune Metro!

There are many such stories which are known to us, and we have started taking things for granted. Metro railway is an institution built singlehandedly by the doyen of this technology E Sridharan. He was also instrumental in developing the Konkan railway system. The system was one of the most stringent projects to build because of the tricky mountainous terrain. What Sridharan did was a technological marvel, management marvel. All the projects handled by him were always completed on time.

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Konkan Railway Bridge on the river Panval

My classmate Shashikant Limaye was the chief engineer for bridges on the Konkan Railway project. Shown above is the bridge designed by him on the river Panval (Yes it is supposedly near my native place Panval, where I have never been!). This bridge is 80 meters high from the ground level. It is considered a significant technical achievement in the project. How do people like Sridharan achieve such things? Looking into the smallest of the details has ensured everything works like clockwork on these projects. There is an exciting story about Sridharan. As the Metro lines started becoming operational in Delhi, he would visit different sectors every day to begin his work. Where he would go was not known to anyone. As he entered the station, he would bend and check if there was dust on staircases and escalators by wiping with his hand. What was the result of this dedication? Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow are all having Metro lines or are in the process of installation. All projects have always been completed on time.  

These projects have proven that in India, we can do worldclass technical work and have excellent project management abilities. In the example of bogeys, do not forget that these bogeys were not in one place but spread all over India. The work was completed without hampering the regular services.  

We have been doing great things in Technology. ISRO has already proven that it is India’s showcase worldclass organisation. It competes and beats others from the world in quality, performance and equally importantly, costs! 

On the business side Reliance has done a fantastic job of creating world-class large business; they have proven the same again in their Jio venture too!

But somehow we are not able to go up the value chain in other areas where we can do it. I am talking about the IT industry. They started doing well in ’90 s of the last century with Y2K! They started making big money and started getting large service contracts. Such contracts led to making even more money. In 20 years, these companies became very large, and have so much money that they did not know what to do with that money. Recently they started buying back their own shares from the market. The buyback indicated that they had no plans for developing new skills and gaining expertise in more modern areas. They have still not shown the willingness to go up the value chain. They have the people, the money but lack the will! I sincerely hope that these companies invest some money, human resources, and efforts in creating world-class products! Don’t just become Billionaires; become proud owners of great products!  

 

 

 

Time simply flies!

All of us are blessed with twenty-four hours a day. Some of us use the time efficiently, and others don’t, but some people say that time flies in their life and for some time just does not pass by. Why does it happen this way? I will share an example with you. The other day we went to a lunch party about twenty km from our home. We had never been to that hotel before, and maybe we took about thirty-five minutes to reach the place. While coming back, it took us thirty minutes. It was hardly five minutes less. But we felt as if we came back pretty quickly. It was because while going there we were looking for landmarks and junctions. We put on the GPS at the last moment when the crunch point came up for taking the final turn. We felt as if we needed much longer to reach the same distance. We were absorbing things; we were looking at new surroundings.

Our life is very similar. When we start feeling that there is nothing new in our lives, there is nothing to be absorbed; the time appears to fly. The phenomenon occurs to people when they get old and have nothing to look forward. Old age is one angle, but even when one is young, we look at life differently. I have always said in my different blogs that we should absorb what we are doing. We go for a walk in the morning and have earbuds with music flowing into our ears. Are you listening to music or are you enjoying the beauty of the early morning atmosphere? Today I went for a walk, and the weather was typical Pune summer beauty. Cool breeze, the fragrance of flowers and chirping of birds. I love music, but I give the music its own slot. I saw many Gulmohars and Bahawas in full bloom. In between, I thought of talking to Nikhil, my son in law who lives in Montreal. But the atmosphere sucked me in, and I forgot to talk to him. I spoke with him after reaching home.

When we were kids, probably we remember long summer holidays, when we would play different games. We had our trips by buses and trains to visit uncles and aunts. We felt in those days as if the time had stopped. Children’s world is so small that everything they see on the way to a new place, the journey itself, the place where you stay, is new. They take time to absorb all the things which they have never seen before.

The same thing happens to us. In the early eighties of the last century, I had travelled to Germany for the first time. It was winter and cold. I took a train at three pm from Frankfurt and fell asleep right away as I was tired after my international flight. I woke up suddenly and looked outside the window. All I could see was pure white ground. Though I knew that Germany has snowfall in winter, I had never seen one. I was fascinated by it and just kept on watching and watching. I felt as if I had spent a few hours watching the snow. Then I came back to reality. I was supposed to get down at a station at 6 pm. But all announcements were made in German which I did not know. Luckily there was a British army officer in the train who guided me to get down. But I had lost the sense of timing. Time moves at a slow pace when the surroundings keep us interested.

The same thing happens to us when we eat or drink something which we have never done before. If we gulp it, then we will never enjoy the different taste the stuff may have. Nursing a drink is the word which accurately explains the way we should be taking a drink. If you gulp a glass or two of wine, you will never enjoy it. If you are with your friends for a couple of hours nursing the food and drink, those two hours may seem to you like four hours.

There are so many examples in real life where we miss the point. When we take a shower why not enjoy the feel of the water falling on your body? Depending on what we like, biting cold shower will give a push to our mind and body to wake up. Steaming hot shower could release the stress, and the tiredness one may have. But most of the time, we go under the shower thinking about what want to do in that important meeting with customer or presentation you must give to your boss. You neither give justice to your thought process nor do you enjoy the physical pleasure of taking a bath.

Our sense of timing drastically changes, when we are under a traumatic situation or a psychedelic drug. The athletes use a term called going into the zone. When some athletes are performing at their peak, they operate as if they are in a different zone. Our time appears to slow down in these circumstances.

The same thing can happen when you attend a short course or a seminar on a new subject. The subject is new; the place is unique; the speaker and participants are all unknown to you. You are trying to understand the topic; you are getting to know the people; you have never visited that city before and are looking forward to it. Time moves very slowly in such circumstances.

As usual, I also want to see how this theory is applied to oldies like me and our ilk. When you are near seventy years of age, you are at a stage where the term “been there and done that” fits appropriately. Whatever we do, we get the feeling that we have done it before. Time passes fast because nothing new is happening. In comparison with the total time we have spent on the earth, any event takes only a small time. How to slow it down? You can never slow the time, but you can make us feel as if it has slowed down. Try to learn something new. Try and meet people you have not met. Attend your alumni meetings. Last Sunday, eighteen of us met for breakfast and spent an hour and a half together. All of us felt as if we had spent a few hours together. The whole gang went on a nostalgic trip. Friends were sharing stories and remembering the old anecdotes.

How was this achieved? It was done by living through our senses and our experience rather than through our minds. It’s a different approach to avoiding familiarity—and happens not by seeking new experiences, but by changing our attitude to our experiences. In our mind, we would say, “what is the big deal in meeting old friends?” But it is not the meeting but the atmosphere of camaraderie that is created that slows down the time.

Our journey by train or by bus is the same as our life. You ignore the things that you see through the window, the rivers, the mountains, the fields and the villages at your own peril. If you ignore these things, then there is nothing to see, nothing to look forward. The same thing happens in our life’s journey, and you may find it boring.

Here is a quick example of lengthening your time. On our balcony Mogra, 36 flowers bloomed today. In ten seconds, I could have seen the bloom and would have been done with it. But I took a photograph, I took a small video of the bush and the flowers swaying in the breeze. Jaya and I discussed the beauty and the fragrance of the flowers. We discussed whom should the flower Mala be given to! I counted the numbers, plucked the delicate flowers. Jaya created the Mala and wore it herself. I shared the photos and videos with a few and had a discussion on the subject. Ten seconds were lengthened to more than half an hour as we delved into the beauty provided by nature.

Start enjoying chores like keeping your garden clean and neat. And you’ll also discover that this open and alert attitude to your experiences has a time-expanding effect since mindfulness increases the amount of information we process. It spreads the same one hour into a more extended period. We should not treat time as an enemy in old age. Look at it as a gift which you never had before. Go into your zone like athletes and enjoy it. It is very easy to gulp your tea like you did in your younger age when you were short of time. Extend that time the way you want it and enjoy.

996 or else!

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You must be wondering if I am going to start writing blogs in the digital language of 010101. Don’t worry; I am not doing it! But what is this 996? Chinese companies now expect their employees to work from 9 to 9, all six days of the week! For workaholics that sounds like great news. But 996 workaholics, by choice, are rare. People do work longer hours. But can that be the reason enough to work 996, all the time? I don’t think so. No sane person can follow that schedule. If you work 9 to 9, all six days of the week, where do have time for family life, time for personal chores? Time for enjoyment and time for quick picnics. Spending time with spouse and children on the seventh day is out of the question because it is likely, that one will sleep it out on the seventh day! Below is the status of 996 people on Sunday!

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How has this come up? Competition? Dictatorship? Fear of losing the job? Unrealistic goals? Or probably it is a combination of all the factors. Add to this, for international companies, with headquarters in America, and offices in Germany, Israel, India and China. Working with colleagues in different continents can play havoc on the lives of the people. In any organisation, the work is done by different teams in collaboration with each other. Hence there is a need for telephonic meetings regularly. But does it mean that 996 should be the norm? How longer hours will complete the complex jobs shown below, more efficiently?

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Jack Ma, the big boss of the Chinese company Alibaba, says, “The 996 schedule – which means working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.” He further says that if you don’t work this way when you are young, when are you going to work hard? The question comes to mind what the definition of young is In a group of 100 people if 80 members are young and 20 are not so young, then can you have different timings for young and the not so young? He also feels that such a work regime has allowed Alibaba to become a giant on the world stage.

Why do we work? To win our bread and butter, to learn new things, to go ahead in our careers. How many of us are bothered about the last aspect? The main thing is to achieve, is to steadily get our bread and butter, to pay our bills on time. Educate the children and pass life peacefully. Not everybody is looking to become highly successful in life. Would such people be interested in 996? Would they be able to sustain 996?

I remember about a young engineering graduate who was in the US for his master’s degree, for a couple of years. He joined a company in Pune, where the atmosphere was not 996 but hectic. It was a group of smart engineers working to do some great technical work. Three months later, he went and met his boss and said, “I cannot work with such a smart group of people; probably this is not my taking.” Later he started playing bridge and made his career as a professional bridge player!

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Is 996 feasible in the long term? I don’t think so. There is murmur going on, “family or ICU?” The 996 types of lifestyles are bound to create issues — even our 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle is against the fundamental requirement of the human body. Before the industrial revolution, our lifestyle was based on nature. Sunrise and Sunset would decide the daily routine. 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle also involves travel, business dinners and late meetings. So even this lifestyle is hectic. What made Jack Ma think that 996 is sustainable in the long term, I would not know.

Following two paragraphs are taken from a webpage

https://hub.packtpub.com/developers-lives-matter-chinese-developers-protest-over-the-996-work-schedule-on-github/

Working long hours at a company, devoid of any work-life balance, is rife in China’s tech industry. Earlier this week on Tuesday, a Github user with the name “996icu” created a webpage that he shared on GitHub, to protest against the “996” work culture in Chinese tech companies.

The 99icu webpage mentions the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, according to which, an employer can ask its employees to work long hours due to needs of production or businesses. But, the work time to be prolonged should not exceed 36 hours a week. Also, as per the Labor Law, employees following the “996” work schedule should be paid 2.275 times of their base salary. However, this is not the case in reality, and Chinese employees following the 996 work rule rarely get paid that much.

These two paragraphs indicate what is happening at the ground level. Can the developers come together and fight the system? I doubt, and it may not be possible even in the US as well as in India. But probably breaking laws in China appears to be blatant. Companies are getting away without being prosecuted by the authorities. The latest information says that 996 will be replaced by 10107! Ten AM to 10 PM seven days a week.

I understand the aspect of profitability in business. But will 996 achieve those numbers? It is evident that people are continuing this out of fear, and also because of no immediate options available. Years back I had met one engineer from Wipro on a flight. He said that his job was quite laid back, but every day he felt like changing his job. After office, he took 2 to 3 ½ hours to reach home. In 996 and 10107 the commute time is not even considered. I read on the website that someone changed residence and moved into not a very decent home, to reduce commute time.

Many companies are not into 996 or 10107, yet. But the number of hours put in plus the commute time makes it terrible. If both husband and wife are working, then the practical solution will be to look for jobs in areas nearby and move residence near the workplace. I know of a couple whose total daily commute time is six hours daily, minimum. One of them has a health issue and is required to exercise daily. But this is not possible due to commute time.

The Chinese colloquial term for a developer is “码农. Its literal English translation is “code peasants” — not the most flattering or respectful way to call software engineers. I call them white-collar workers on the lines of blue-collar workers. Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra group, had tweeted, “I feel as if I am a businessman from Dinosaur times.” He made this comment after he read a statement by Uber CEO that Uber will never become profitable! I have a run very small business all these years; I am also surprised that Amazon has never made any profits, ever! I am told that these are 996 companies!

Mr Naraynamurthy of Infosys had sent an email to all Infosys employees to make sure that they leave office on time. But his instructions have never been followed in the spirit! I have discussed with people working in larger companies, especially the coders. All of them have said that they can concentrate on their job for not more two hours at a time. If 996 culture is followed how much will be the real productivity is anybody’s guess.

996? 10107? To me, none of these makes sense but what is the option? We had apartheid! We had slavery! The only difference is that compensations are high in the new bondage! Hopefully, there will be an organised movement against these systems, so let us wait and see, fingers crossed!