Dachau-Arbeit macht frei!

Thoughts on visiting Dachau Concentration Camp!

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The meaning of this phrase is “WORK SETS YOU FREE”. It is ironic to see this at the entrance of Dachau Concentration camp!

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We were to reach Munich to start our Alpine Holiday. We decided to reach there a day early as I thought that we must visit the Dachau Concentration Camp, 15 km from Munich. Auschwitz may be the most known of the camps but Dachau was the first camp started in 1933. Since these events are 70 plus years old, I have shared a brief history of the camp and this concept in general. Our tour guide had pointed out that since this is not a picnic spot we should refrain to pose for the photos, we could of course take as many photos! When he was explaining the details, there were goose bumps on body and by the time the tour was done we were mentally drained.

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Although Dachau was initially established to hold political prisoners of the Third Reich, only a minority of whom were Jews, Dachau soon grew to hold a large and diverse population of people targeted by the Nazis. Under the oversight of Nazi Theodor Eicke, Dachau became a model concentration camp, a place where SS guards and other camp officials went to train.

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The “new” camp, completed in mid-1938, was composed of 32 barracks and was designed to hold 6,000 prisoners; however, the camp population was usually grossly over that number. Electrified fences were installed and seven watchtowers were placed around the camp. At the entrance of Dachau was placed a gate topped with the infamous phrase, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”). Since it was concentration and not death camp there were no gas chambers till 1942. 31000 plus people were still killed here though it was a death camp, mostly, Jews!

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WALL SHOWING SOME OF THE NAMES OF WHO DIED!

Throughout the Holocaust, several concentration and death camps facilitated forced medical experiments on their prisoners. Dachau was no exception to this policy. The medical experiments conducted at Dachau were ostensibly aimed at improving military survival rates and bettering medical technology for German civilians. These experiments were usually exceptionally painful and unneeded. For example, Nazi Dr. Sigmund Rascher subjected some prisoners to high altitude experiments using pressure chambers, while he forced others to undergo freezing experiments so that their reactions to hypothermia could be observed. Still other prisoners were forced to drink saltwater during efforts to determine its drinkability. Nazi Dr. Claus Schilling hoped to create a vaccine for malaria and thus injected over a thousand prisoners with the disease. Other prisoners at Dachau were experimented on with tuberculosis.

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Initially, political opponents were kept there and slowly as Nazis became stronger, they brought Jews, Homosexuals, thieves and more people. These people were used for producing items for the war machine. About 30 sub camps were created around Dachau to help increase production. Though people were used for purpose of slave labor, many were asked to stand at attention in freezing conditions for hours together and of course many died.

Was the visit to Dachau worth it! Of course it was! Such visits brings humans back to reality of what has happened not in too distant  past! And show cases to them what can happen in future! The German nation has taken the hit on the chin and have developed these areas as visiting places, so that those who want to understand such horrible  events, will know what happened. They have not hidden their warts! The German education system has ensured that their children visit at least one such camp as a part of curriculum to expose them to this aspect of life. I am sure they must be learning what not to do in life!

Human mind is impossible to fathom. We have known of so many sacrifices made by humans to save others’ lives at the cost of their own lives. How can the humans become so cold blooded as to kill people just because they have different religion, different sexual orientation? How humans could be used as Guinea pigs to perform some medical experiments, though sure deaths were known! When millions were killed in Gas Chambers not even one person thought that this should be stopped! No one thought they should protest! Was that mass hysteria? Was it mass fear of authority?

This brings me to my favorite subject, is this possible in today’s times of relentless social media? I think this would be impossible in today’s times. If you look at the world today, North Korea is leading in such acts followed by some countries. But even strongly autocratic countries like China and to some extent Russia are not able to hide their follies because of internet. With Julian Assange’s of this world, it is going to be even more difficult for governments to hide things. In today’s world of “breaking news”, information is available to you if you have some communication device in your hand. You don’t have an option! News can spread real fast, probably faster than nuclear chain reaction!

So let’s pray to Him that generations after us do not have a chance to visit Dachau’s (created by later generations) ever hence they should never be allowed to happen! I always feel that in Indian reference, it is important to see Taj Mahal and Nainital but it is equally important to visit Jalianwalla Baug! This is our reality check! 

 

Freedom at Midnight from Aadhar!

Aadhar controversy on individual privacy is being explained from common man’s point of view!

Supreme Court gave a decision that “Right to Privacy is a Fundamental right of an individual”. This is a landmark decision and it is said that it will change many things in India. I am no political pundit nor am I a constitutional experts, I am a common man like most. This has directly affected LGBT community, who  are enthralled that their rights to choose sexual orientation can now be converted into a law! In another case, where there is a ban on beef business in various formats, a Supreme Court justice has said that what one should eat and if someone should drink alcohol are covered under fundamental rights. These cases will now get a different treatment. But in many discussions I have read that Right to Privacy can never be absolute and needs to be checked under proper legal infrastructure.

My take in this blog is going to be about Aadhar card! (Aadhaar is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data.) When Aadhar came into being under Nilekani, ex Infosys honcho, there were the usual Nay Sayers. In a conversation with Journalist Manu Joseph, Nilekeni divided the Aadhar Nay Sayers in four groups.

  • The Privacy gang
  • The rights of the poor gang
  • Oh My God 1984 has arrived gang
  • Luddites (meaning a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology- this has old reference to British workers in textile industry having fear of losing their jobs due to technology in 19th century)

Privacy gang is those like you and I who are required to give their biometric details to the government and in return get nothing back. They don’t get any dole or any subsidy from Government. They are the most “affected” by what, god knows! This gang does not mind giving their biometrics for passport because it is an essential document for this group. Then when they go to cooler climes of Switzerland, “Oh! What do to do! For Schengen Visa you have to share biometrics!” For US visa, people will even shed all their clothes if forced! After all going to US of A is  life’s necessity! These countries are foreign governments so no harm in sharing the data with them but Indian Govt and Modi! Nah, I can’t share at the cost of loss of Privacy!” These foreign Governments have such fantastic data security, probably software written by Wipro’s and TCS’s of this world, that except Edward Snowden nobody has been able to steal the data from them! Trumpets & bugles please! Data security is definitely a concern but we have been giving data to banks, passport office, and various websites for sometime. What has Aadhar done that it makes people suddenly insecure about! Friends, I will share one example with you which might help you with the beauty of Aadhar number.  55 dealers from MP, Andhra and UP states returned their license to sell fertilizers which Government used to supply to them. Reason? They were supplied fertilizers at two rates, one with subsidy for those below poverty line and one normal rate. They would buy at low rates and sale at normal rates with huge profits. Government now made a rule that they should link the sale to Aadhar card and based on that the rate will be decided. How can Government come in our way of making huge profits? Return the license. I am sure Govt officials were also hand in glove in this chain!

Rights of the Poor gang was worried that if subsidy is linked to Aadhar, some may not get benefit as they may be too illiterate to enroll for Aadhar card. Ok, great! Courts gave a decision that if they don’t have Aadhar they should still get subsidy. So, as the Aadhar system improves more and more of these people will get Aadhar and still get subsidy. What is the problem with this gang? What this gang is worried if systems fall in place, their importance will reduce. Some of them had a gumption to tell Nilekeni that you have never lived in a village, what you know about villagers needs! (Gumption means shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness)

 “Oh My God 1984 has arrived gang” is the trickiest ones. (Wikipedia describes, Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell.[2][3] The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the Super state Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation.) This group of people probably thinks Government will use Aadhar data to spy on people. Government does it anyway but Privacy judgment will make Government more law abiding! How Aadhar was making this easy I have never understood! These proponents of Orwell theory, I am sure, give their latest status on Facebook, every time they travel. “Sitting in Jet Airways Gold Lounge, travelling to Egypt” or some such thing! This is  my cell number please call after two hours!  Privacy what is that!

Anyway once the human race decided to come out of jungle and live as a society, basic definition of privacy changed forever! I am always wondering what is privacy in days of internet! When filling some form can we say,  I should be allowed not to mention if I am a male or a female or transvestite! What happens to reserved compartments on trains for women? What happens to reservation for women in education? I am a private person I will not give my address, I will not tell my birthdate? Where will this lead to? So there is bound to be limit to privacy. During filling up of any form some information has to be shared, similarly more information may be needed for Income Tax purpose. Don’t forget that there is black money and terrorist angle too! To overcome lacunae in PAN card, (which people are having more than one) Aadhar is a better alternative. More controls, are most welcome but do we need Goebbels! Social media like FB and WhatsApp has already created them!

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Luddites is the group which is very uncomfortable with new technology. As they are uncomfortable, they don’t believe in new technology. If you don’t believe in something how can you trust it! For such groups honestly there is no solutions.

No technology or a system is 100% perfect. These improve over a period. After using the systems for some time, may be some better additional viewpoints will come up. Systems are bound to improve but again data hacking is always a possibility. So called hacking incident that has been in discussion currently was an event, an illegal act by a bank officer. It was not hacking. Aadhar already has big base and I am sure once people understand the importance of the same, more will come forward and enroll. There is a big trust deficit with large organizations. Jio is selling their SIM cards against Aadhar card. Many Nay Sayers must be wondering, will their privacy be breached? Similarly many social organizations have axe to grind against Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. This foundation has achieved things in a few years that social organizations could not achieve in decades!

Aadhar system is a modern technology, take advantage of the same instead of thrashing it, embrace it! Bina Aadhar mat raho! Aadhar means support, “Don’t live without support”! 

 

 

 

 

Innocence or Naivety

Is it Social Media behavior issue? Or Naivety or …

In the last decade WhatsApp and Facebook changed the method of human communication in an unprecedented way! Especially, WhatsApp has changed things so much, that people are just not giving a thought before communicating through this medium. But last few months, at least the groups in which I am a member, are observing reducing volume of messages that are exchanged. Most of my groups have senior citizens but I have checked up with a few young folks and I am getting a similar feedback. Major % of messages are so called “forwards”. These come from internet, You Tube, movies and some are creations of individuals about various subjects. These are generally well written, I won’t say that these are well researched. People write articles in such a way that many people assume that they are absolutely genuine! Why people create such unsubstantiated stories is a matter separate discussion. The people who generally fall for such articles are Naïve or Innocent. 

My nephew Ashwin is an Air Force pilot, currently flying with Suryakiran Squadron. Suryakiran squadron has a set of expert pilots who fly the Airplanes in formations which are breath taking. Last December we saw their show during NDA passing out parade. Was it thrilling! We are all proud of Ashwin and his team members. When Ashwin was a child, once we were discussing something over dinner on an ambiguous   subject. He said, “Pramod Kaka this must be true because I have read it in newspaper.” I told him that tomorrow I will print in a newspaper that Ashwin is an idiot. Does it mean that it is true? Then he understood what I was saying. Of course his argument was due to innocence of age.

Advent of internet, WhatsApp and Facebook has created a situation where different types of so called forwards are being shared. I am in a couple of groups where all are engineers and supposedly logical thinking people. Forwards are on different subjects and some are about religious things. I can understand naivety displayed by people about religious forwards, as people react very differently to things involving religion. (Naivety means lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement or unsophistication) But there are some forwards which are about things that involve engineering, business, and technology.

The other day there was a forward about Bajaj Auto Quadricycle. It is a four wheeled vehicle but not a car as declared by the company. The person had shared some photos and said that it is going to be priced at Rs.60000/. I deal with Bajaj Auto very regularly; so I wrote to my friend that what you have written is untrue. The price will be in region of Rs. 2, 00,000/ and launching date is unknown as there is a court case going on in Supreme Court. Immediately he sent a YouTube video on the same subject. I asked him, “what was the point in repeating the same wrong information when I had said that the information shared by me was given to me by someone senior from Bajaj.” My friend said that such videos are there on You Tube and company should clarify their stand on such videos! I had no answer to this! Naivety or Innocence? Or ….

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This caricature is classic case which represents what happens on WhatsApp. Bewakoof is an Urdu word, it means “foolish/stupid/dolt/idiot” in English, while in Hindi it’s called as “moorkh/मूर्ख, ullu/उल्लू. The word Webqoof has been perfectly scripted out the word Bewakoof! This is how  some people, who can be normally called intelligent, behave on WhatsApp! It is the same what  Ashwin had said when he was a child!

Recently there was one forward. It started with a tag line, “This is created by XYZ from ABC Engineering College!” Then there were ¾ lines depicting pictures of  pencil batteries. The forward said, “Please forward this to at least three persons and you will see that your cell phone battery will be fully charged”! This was forwarded by a friend of  mine, Electrical Engineer by training. When I saw this forward, I wrote to him, “Come on friend an Electrical Engineer like you cannot forward such things!” He replied, “What is the harm in trying?” He was honest enough to inform that nothing happened when he forwarded to three guys. The beauty was he kept on arguing that he did it for fun instead of saying that he was stupid to try this!

This brings us back to the original question. Why do people behave in such a way? Does their logical mind go into cold storage? Do they have a brain freeze? Or they have nothing else to do, so to kill time they will try anything! But then what happens to life-long training of logical thinking? I am really at wits end to understand why people behave this way! 

Forward this blog to 100 people and see a magic! Your brain will starting work normally, the way you are supposed to think,  logically, based on common sense! Let me know! Oh, I got converted with the bandwagon!

 

 

 

 

100 Hundred शंभर सौ!

Thank You from bottom of my heart! Your encouragement is what really puts my blog writing in turbo charge mode!  Keep commenting, keep criticizing, keep liking too! 
धन्यवाद, आभार, Love you!

As I have reached  blog number 100, I am excited, apprehensive, and reflective. Many emotions come to mind, one definite one is surprise! I started writing in 2011, and expected that my stint as a person who can write, will be short lived as happens with most of things in our life. Now in 2017 I am reaching the milestone of 100 blogs.

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We start some activity with a great enthusiasm, we think that we are going to do this thing for ever and before you come to know, you have simply stopped doing it, not because you don’t want to do it but that is how life takes you around.  Since last three years my blog writing frequency has increased. All of us see something happening in our lives, a small episode in our day to day life, or a normal interaction with people. Afterwards, thoughts keep on meandering in mind about that event and inner thought process starts automatically. This chain of thoughts stops only when I write something.

It is said that humans age and wine matures!  But those close to me, say that I have aged but my writing has matured!  I feel that maturity in anything is a matter doing something regularly, or some event takes place which makes you more reflective in turn matures you. This is the difference in how I looked in 2011 and how I look now. I don’t know if by blogs written then and now look equally different! 

 

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I had never planned to be a blogger but it appears that after my Cancer treatment in 2013/14 my frequency of writing increased and I became a reasonably regular writer (though my professional work comes in the way even today!) My thoughts are more about human interactions, human reactions, human thinking and human nature. The event that induces me to write a blog could be taking my grand-daughter for small walk to a Mandir when she was two years old, or watching a lady suddenly going in a trance, reading about new tech products like Electric car being suddenly pushed hard by all.  My thinking in most cases looks into human aspect of the situation. Very few of my blogs are like an “article” which I recently wrote about GST implementation in India. Another subject that has kicked in a lot of thought processes in my mind are electric cars and non-conventional energy generation systems.

Events that stimulate my blog writing are of two types, divergent or convergent. Now let me explain. Some ideas are such that, in the beginning they look big, they look promising; but as I start writing, a very narrow thought or a conclusion comes out of it. These are convergent ideas for me. In case of divergent ideas, process is exactly reverse; I start with something very small but end with some idea which is universal and/or very big! 

Writing on different subjects needs a lot of study and has become much easier because of Internet. There is no dearth of information if one is willing to dig. When I started writing, it never touched my mind if anyone will ever read what I write. I would share my blogs with family and a few friends. Then I started understanding the techniques of sharing with others. A reasonable number people not known to me are followers of my blogs now. Later on I realized, that I can publish the blogs simultaneously on Facebook, Linked in and so on. I am also a member of a few groups on WhatsApp. I share my blog on these groups too! Out of curiosity I check the statistics that are available on WordPress site and I come to know how my blog has been “found”! It is found from search engines (Tagging helps!) on FB and so on. I also get to know the geographical locations where the blogs are “seen”. The main areas are naturally English speaking ones like US, Canada, Australia besides India but sometimes these are accessed even from Scandinavia or Eastern Europe countries! English speaking people from these places are doing this. Another information that I want to share is that in the whole year of 2014, I published 28 blogs and these were viewed by about 1000 people; till my last blog I have published 28 blogs in 2017 but the viewership is 3500! This does not mean that my blogs have suddenly become popular but I have improved the distribution! I have also observed that a couple of my friends from Facebook, share my blog with others. People give their comments on the blog itself or they send separate email to send comments. There are friends who prefer to call and discuss. My blog writing, comments, discussions also show that I am doing what I have been preaching! I have been saying, all the time in different blogs, please do something that will keep you reasonably busy during the course of the day, other than exercising, watching TV and time on Facebook/WhatsApp! I am also lucky that I love what I am doing.

My main criteria for publishing is that I myself should find the blog “readable”. My definition of “readable” is a bit stringent. If a person starts reading my blog then he should finish reading the blog in one go! Many of you have told me that my blogs are readable!

What next? Well in cricketing terms, I am taking fresh guard, will adjust my pads and will check my bat!  Next hundred should be possible in two years time. Frequency of my writing improved from 2014 and it took me about 3 1/2 years to reach 100. 2011 to 2013 were real baby steps! I think my blog theme will always be human relations and relationships! But it appears that I will pepper you folks in between on Solar Energy and Electric cars too!

Till then .. so long ! Thank You from bottom of my heart! Your encouragement is what really puts my blog writing in turbo charge mode!  Keep commenting, keep criticizing, keep liking too! 

धन्यवाद, आभार, Love you! 

 

 

 

Age with an Open Mind III

After writing the blog “Age with an Open Mind”, I got an idea that I should write a couple of more blogs on the similar theme. The first blog was mainly about “keeping the brain active and sharp”. In second one I have written about “keeping our body active, sharp and flexible.” In the third & final blog in the series I will write about “Keeping our mind active, positive and interactive.”

Human personality is complex and is made up of Brain, Body and Mind! These three aspects are most important but there could be many more aspects which will be subsets of these three aspects. Brain and Body are physical but Mind can be described as a “Virtual Entity” in today’s language. We describe people as “Oh! He/ She is a simple soul”. Or sometimes we say “Oh! He is a tough guy!” All these adjectives like Simple, Tough describe the personality of humans. Simple soul could be six foot tall and a tough guy could be five foot tall! Human personality is a combination these three parameters.

How does the combination affect us? In young age, we are so busy with many things that we don’t care or have time to think about these aspects, we neglect our body but our brain is active. As we age our mind starts behaving differently as we have more time on hand. Our body and brain start aging. There is a saying in Marathi language मन चिंती ते वैरी न चिंती“! It means that bad thoughts can veer so much in our mind, even our worst enemy will never think about us that way.

This is the reason we should think of “minding” our mind. Personality of a human being is formed by what one sees from outside and also what is not seen from outside. In my first two blogs I have written about the “seen” part. If your brain is sharp it reflects in your demeanor. If your body is aging as it should, this is also seen from your fitness levels but your mind’s status may not be “seen” as some of us are good actors and we hide the mind’s aging process to some extent. As and when we retire, relevance of various activities changes for you as well as for others. When you don’t go to office every day, our perspective of time changes. You need to handle time on hand. During working phase, you don’t get time for many things but when you retire, there is plenty of time for everything plus you are left with more than excess time on hand. This needs to be planned well.

In brain and body blogs we discussed their management during retirement. Similarly let us define how to manage our mind.

1.       First and foremost we must understand that we will have more than enough time and others may not have time for you. Get used to it!

2.       Keep connect with people of all age groups.

3.       Try and keep connect keep connect with younger people, try and understand modern things, otherwise connect becomes difficult

4.       Cell phone and internet technologies are part of our day to day life, adapt to them.

5.       Never let the discussion veer towards “in our times”- your time is gone, nobody is interested in it!

6.       By all means join groups where people are your age but be selective to ensure that most are broadminded and positive.

7.       Travel and visit places where you could not go during working days, due to lack of time.

8.       Take up a hobby like reading, painting, writing, bird watching and what have you!

9.       Your day must be planned in such a way that you always have something to look forward to.

10.   There are many other things that can be done but it depends on individuals.

11.       Try and remain financially independent and keep your finances under your control. Your assets are for your children “after both of you go and not before”. Don’t become emotional about it. This gives peace to your mind!

12.       Keep your financial documents properly managed, that gives you peace in mind!

These are some of the things that are going to keep your mind active and positive. Remaining positive and interested in your retired life is going to help you remain healthier. At this age some or the other physical issues are bound to be around. But recovering from ailments is going to be easier by positivity of mind. At this stage there will be deaths of spouse, siblings, friends, close ones, neighbours. Handling deaths is an aspect which needs to be learnt. Share your thoughts with others, don’t just clam up. Your mind comes into picture in such situations. Positive and strong mind is going to help you. Friends, try to keep your mind as busy as you were during your working days. This may not involve physical activity but mental activities.  

God has given us gift of human body and brain. Body is bound to age naturally, but mind is not the God’s gift. It is in our hands to keep it young! If we take special efforts to keep our mind positive, active and agile, quality of our retired life will be much better! Mind is OUR business!

Yes both are right but sometimes one is more right!

Internet has made things so easy, some of the best things are made available with ease, and the list includes, photos, videos, articles, caricatures and so on. I came across a caricature a few days back and it set my thought process rolling. The god’s gift to us humans, the life, becomes quite complex because every situation has different interpretations, a way of looking at it. The death is the only situation in our lives which has no two sides. A dead person is always a dead person!

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This caricature is epitome of complications that exists in our world. The number six viewed from the other side is nine. This is what happens in all situations. When both sides understand the meaning of caricature above, conflicts are avoided or both sides will react in a different way. But in most cases people don’t want to understand or don’t understand that there are two sides to any coin, which leads to conflicts, fights, murders and even wars! But different approach to the same event can lead to great evolutions.

First human society came into being around 10000 BC. Earth has been in existence for millions of years before. With evolution of society, there came a time when humans started communicating, remembering, in general thinking like we do today. That is when the ownership concept started evolving. Ownership of crops, land, home and later wives! Before this period, disputes must have been only about eating stuff available as nobody owned anything. Eating was the only thing that was required for survival. Humans must have behaved mostly like animals but the evolution of brain changed things rapidly.

Why do two persons look at the same thing in a different way? The example of six and nine defines this different outlook perfectly. What could be the possible reasons for this different outlook? Ego? Superiority complex? Narrow thought process? Not able to grasp the situation? Out of box thinking!

Example of narrow thought process is exemplified in a short story. A shoe sales man is sent to an island with no instructions. After two days of survey he sends a message to headquarters, “People don’t wear any type of footwear, don’t send any shoes!” He is called back and another shoe salesman is sent. The new salesman sends a message to headquarters, “Nobody wears any footwear, send two containers of shoes immediately!” Same situation but different interpretation and approach.

Classic example of “Out of Box thinking”. A few days back Mukesh Ambani made a statement that H1 visa issue in the US, for Indian IT sector, is a boon for India. He felt that many talented people who would move to the US will be forced to stay back in India and will work for betterment of India. In India we always think that our large population comes in the way of our growth. Mukesh Ambani has made one more statement recently. He said the “Data is new Oil”; he said with India’s 1.2 billion population there is a huge data available. It is for the next generation of entrepreneurs to use data in to create processes, products and systems which will benefit huge population.

My personal opinion is that this is a good opportunity for Indian IT sector to go up the value chain instead of remaining as glorified contractors! With such a huge pool of talent, cash rich companies, none of the big ones even thought about going up the value chain. “Narrow thought process”? Companies run by so called bean counters? Is profit the only motive?

In good old license raj days there were some very successful companies that made Nylon fibres. One of the businessman in Pune thought that he will also make the same products and replicate what the other companies did. License raj ended, good businessmen maneuvered out of the situation but our friend in Pune was “Not able to grasp” the situation. In a few years, from Rs.300/ crores they had to close down!

In the war with India before 1971, Pakistan used to boast that they can easily defeat India with superior fighter planes F16. But Indian fighter pilots with their Gnats had superior skills and we know the result! “Ego & Superiority Complex?”

In examples mentioned above things can be done in  different ways but as mentioned in the title “one is more right”! By the way to avoid 6 & 9 or M & W situation there is a method of writing, to avoid the confusion! 6 & 9 or M &W. Cheers, always think for the betterment of whatever you are doing and try to be more right!

Self-development or Nirvana!

A dear friend of mine is going away from whatsapp groups in pursuit of self-development which I want to term as Nirvana! As per thinking in Hinduism there are four Ashrams; Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha, Sanyasa. I am just trying to relate this in today’s times of superb communications. As per historians Ashrams are ideals to be followed in an Utopian world. First two Brahmacharya, Grihastha have been crossed long back by me and my friends. In olden days how many really reached Vanprastha, Sanyasa stage, I am really not sure, because average life expectancy for a male in India in the year 1900 was about 24 years. (Only men supposedly took path of ashrams, women even in those days followed “whatevermalesallowed” ashram)  Realistically these ashrams look to me more hypothetical.

In olden days say 2000 years back, life as we expect today did not exist. Ashrams were supposedly defined in that period. There was almost nothing from today’s world. Simple things like having fire to cook, clean water, basic travel were a big struggle. Every basic thing was a big, tough and difficult task. It started with gathering basic food on a daily as there was no organized farming. I can’t imagine how people must have handled basic illness like cough, cold and loose motions.  With such difficult times and people dying so early (I am sure a few survived and maybe reached the age of 80/90- they were called rishis and were of indeterminate age as they had seen more than 3 generations so nobody really knew their age- some rishis were said to be 2000 years old!) ashrams were really the imagination of writers. But these writers were correct between say 1950 to 2000 when the dawn of current century started with Internet. With proliferation of internet ashram theories are getting tossed out of window. Let me explain.

In my father’s time or before, you had Grihastha ashram, retired from service and if you did not die early you could think of Vanprastha because there was nothing else to do. Most of the people of your generation were either dead or sick or too old. They were practically surviving on day to day basis. They were never a part of social circles and would spend time doing Pooja, singing Bhajans and so on. Now when people born in 40’s started retiring e mails and better communication had just started. People had started communicating easily and better. With this, locating old friends had become easier. Add to this life expectancy improvement. They could now meet old friends; switch to 2016. Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter wow! Looking for old friends, and for that matter flames if you may, and classmates is just like looking into phone directories (who looks into phone directories now!)

With these tools you are pulled into so many groups on various tools. Then you have weekly tea meetings, monthly breakfast meetings, half yearly dinner and yearly jamboree! You are really in touch with a large number of people and inadvertently get into a lot of discussions, arguments and so on. Vanprastha ashram goes for a toss in such situations. But my argument is that true Vanprastha can be achieved only today when you have so many things open for you, as so many things are available at your fingertips. Life expectancy has reasonably improved, average health is also better. Going away from at least some of the things for some time or permanently is Vanprastha ashram. One has to be a bit careful here. Do you really want to go away from your friends? Do you really not want to travel and see the world? Do you really not want to taste different delicacies and wines? If you are able to achieve Vanprastha in moderation you are really achieving something! It is not necessary that old theory of giving up “Everything” was correct! When there was nothing to give up what did you give up? Yes but today I am sure you can really give up something and try to achieve Nirvana!

I wish all the best my dear friend and salute you!