Brexit, Megxit or Exit!  

 

United Kingdom could exit (brexit)  European unionWhere is the British empire heading? The empire where once the sun never set seems to be imploding. Brexit and Megxit appear to be the symptoms of this implosion. If you look at the history of Britain, they ruled the world for a couple of hundred years. Their first setback was in what came to be known as the United States of America. Boston Tea Party, in the year 1773,  in US history marked the end of the stranglehold of the British Empire. In India, the so-called Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was the beginning of the process of the countdown of the British dominance in India. It culminated in India getting independence in 1947.

In the year 1973, Britain joined the European Union- then known as the European Economic Community. The European countries realised that countries other than Germany, Britain and France were too small to grow strongly. The coming together created the European Union in the year 1993. It is coming together of the countries and creating a competing and robust face of the Union in the fast-changing world. It created a common currency Euro and made a border-free movement of goods and people. For the practical purpose, the EU is like a country, and the different nations are the states within that country.

The EU formation created a small movement in Britain. The movement supported by people who wanted Britain to come out of the EU. It was a group of older people who remembered the Empire and had never come out of the thought that the British were driven out of most of the colonies, world over. These people were probably blind to the changes that had taken place in the world. They failed to visualise that the world economic balance was now in equal proportions between the US and the Asian countries like Japan, China and India. Europe’s only chance to compete was being together, and hence EU was a relevant development. But the narcissist Britishers voted in the referendum in 2016 to come out of the EU. The poll led to the start of the British exit- Brexit from the EU. People forgot that it was easier said than done. The past glories don’t help in future; one has to work hard to succeed. Brexit has led to significant turmoil in Britain, cutting short the career of one Prime Minister and called for an early election in the year 2019.

brexit2

The second event that is currently creating waves is Megxit. It is a request by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, to allow them to withdraw from Senior membership from the Royal family. The withdrawal, they feel, would let them spend half their time in North America. They also thought that it would give them financial freedom. The reason for this is the hounding of Meghan, who is half African American, by the tabloid industry in Britain. The most influential and respected family in the world, the British Royal family, could not prevent these racial attacks on Meghan, who was a model and an actress before her marriage to Duke of Sussex, Harry. Is this the beginning of the end of the British monarchy as we know it? Are things imploding in Britain at a speed that may be impossible to slow down?

The thoughts behind Brexit and Megxit are quite similar. It is about thinking that they are the best. It is a thought process of Caucasian, white people who believe that the bloody Indians need to be ruled. Yes, there are internal rivalries between the French and the Germans and the British. But oh, those Poles or those Czechs! They are meant to work on construction sites or something equivalent. As the colour of the skin starts becoming darker, thinking changes. A coloured Joffra Archer is excellent, as long as he takes wickets. The moment his form dips…

Royalty with Afro American background! How is that possible? Given below is the passage from Washington post about Meghan.

Ever since she began dating Harry in 2016, Meghan has been the target of coverage that can’t even be called forensic scrutiny, as that would imply a degree of accuracy. British tabloids were funhouse mirrors when writing about her, committed not to news but the distortion of her image. She has been routinely picked apart and reassembled as a vicious caricature, the list of her alleged faults and faux pas endless. Her crimes are amorphous, ever-changing and at times opposed; she was cast as a bleeding-heart liberal or a money-grabbing social climber depending on the audience. Many hoped the arrival of her son, Archie, would help the media show a kinder side, but that was not the case. 

No tabloid said any such thing about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge; the Wife of Williams, Harry’s elder brother.  The nearest they came to harassing her was trying to take her photos with a telephoto lens when she was on a private beach taking a skinny dip. But everything was perfect about Kate because she was a white Caucasian female who fits the template.

Britain has already started discrete and sometimes not so discrete way of showing the displeasure about Pakis. Pakis is a term generally used for Indians, Bangla Deshi’s and Pakistani people. They would send all of them back to wherever they came from if it were possible; many of them are doing exceedingly well in Britain. I will give you an example of their thought process. A Rear Admiral, retired, from Indian Navy got down at Heathrow. His post preceded his name on the passport.  A lady at the immigration counter asked him, ” Sir, do you speak English?” He smiled and said in propah British accent, “Oh, Lady! It’s Tuesday today, isn’t it? I speak English on Tuesdays, French on Wednesdays, German on Thursdays!”

Brexit is also the result of such thoughts. Free movement of goods and people is excellent as long as those Poles and Czechs do not come and take away low skilled jobs. Britishers forget that they are a part of Europe. Albanians are gangsters and Hungarians are a necessary evil; that is how the people who voted for Brexit think. These are the same people who think that royalty cannot be from a mixed-race! If someone marrying into the Royalty is Caucasian from Europe, that is fine. But they can’t be mixed blood from anywhere else; be it China or Japan or India. Mixed African-blood? Oh, my God! It is not acceptable at all.

But nothing is new in this thought process. In Hindu mythology, Gods have always been described with fair coloured skin; and demons are all the time having big moustaches and dark colour. In our society, if we meet someone who is good looking, our opinion about him/her is always fair, initially, pun intended. Similarly, if that person is fair-skinned, it is even better. We use derogatory terms describing people with a dark complexion.

The most surprising aspect in Meghan affair is that Royalty also faced significant issues at the hands of the press; the reason being the mixed-race of the Her Royal Highness Princess Meghan! Oh, sorry! I cannot say this, now she is only Princess Meghan. They have given up the title HRH now as an arrangement within the royal family as even the Royalty could not prevent hounding by the Hounds of the cousins of the Fleet Street!

A smallish nation like Britain cannot behave like this for practical reasons. Now they have almost a non-existent manufacturing base. North Sea oil will be important until petroleum products remain essential for the world economy. It is possible that after the exit from the EU, London may not remain the Financial Centre of the world.

Effects of Brexit can be challenging to predict, but there will be tough times. If the press can hound the Royalty, it can always create issues for the significant population of non-Caucasians living in Britain. Albanians. Czechs, Poles anyway will go away due to Brexit.

So, what next? Brexit-Megxit and finally Exit from the global scene? It is difficult to exist in this “bad, bad” world without collaborating with others. God save the Queen and Britain.

Out of curiosity, I saw the site www.royalsussex.com. You may also want to view it. I came to know many new things from the website about British Royalty.

New challenges of the modern world! 

Western World and the Japanese have been handling the challenges with ageing population for some time. In India, this challenge has started coming up slowly. The current generation, those who were born around India’s independence in 1947is ageing well, trying to take care of healthand in general gungho about life in general. Technology is helping them in getting in touch with each other using WA, Facebook, Instagram and such apps.  

India has an old tradition of handling the aged relatives in the family. In my young age, in many families there used to be one or two grannies, lovingly called aajjies! In those times most of the families were joint families. From the “post-independence” generation, people started getting better opportunities for education. A small percentage of the population went to foreign countries and stayed back there. Over a period, this percentage started increasing. Computerisation made technology more democratic; more and more people began getting opportunities to work and live abroad. 

Along with this, opportunities for education and work, jobs became abundant. Pan Indian migration started in a big way. All these things resulted in the formation of nuclear families. The ladies too were not far behind. After education ladies became  career oriented in a big way. Steady and better incomes inculcated a new thought process in families. All this gave birth to a new term, space; everybody wanted their space. It has become the requirement of grandparents, parents and children. But this space created voids in the family. The effect of voids was not understood, initially. The family kept helping and supporting each other in the short term. Better medical treatments and diagnostics helped longevity. All these events together have now created a new requirement in society.  

What happens when someone in the family falls ill and needs long time support. The requirement of long-term support arose when people of the golden generation became old but could not handle many things, physically; and in some cases mentally. There are two distinctive supports available. One is palliative support, and the other is like home support. Those who are seriously ill with cancer, heart issues, renal problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary issues, cerebrovascular accident need palliative care; such treatment cannot be handled at home. But general ageing related issues can be dealt under home care.  

In western countries, especially in the US, palliative care facilities are available. In Japan, there is a shortage of such facilities. In India, these facilities, compared to the needs, are almost non-existent. In India, as a society, we are prepared to provide space to each other, but while this change happened, we had not budgeted for parents who can live longer due to improved longevity. The confluence of all this created turmoil in people’s mind about handling the situation. In the year 1981, Jaya and I were in Ottawa as Jaya was taking some training. During one long weekend, we went to an island on a lake with a Canadian friend of ours; he was almost twenty years senior to us. 

On the way back, the friend said, “Hey folks, is it ok if I take a bit of detour?” We said, “Absolutely no issues.” When we reached a destination, the friend said, “It is an old people’s home, my mother is here. I come and meet her every 2/3 months.” We were sitting at the back-side of the car and were confused. We did not know what we were supposed to do. But our problem was solved by his wife. In the parking lot, she said, “I will wait with Jaya and Pramod; you go and see your mother.” Problem solved. In 1981, our friend was ok with the idea of meeting his mother every 2/3 months, because she was within 50 km from Ottawa. As a society, we are not mentally prepared with this idea. The older people’s homes available are not providing facilities that people have at home.  

There is some progress in creating facilitiesBut compared to India’s population, this number is lowIt is about creating facilities; it is also about young and old getting mentally prepared for such arrangements. Hospices need doctors, trained nurses, and medical facility to handle day to day critical requirements. Whereas in older people’s homes, the need is to create facilities which suit all the pockets. Some may need fivestar facilities, and others may be ok with a couple of stars. But there is a significant need for affordable facilities.  

Some people will ask me why am I writing about all these things. The simple reason is it is a need of times like we have schools, colleges, gardens and so on. I hope people have managed to create a corpus which will last them till they are around. 

I will tell you about some facilities in India that I know. According to me, there is a worldclass facility but I will explain it in the end. Please let me know if you know about such facilities in India. In Pune, there is one facility developed by Paranjape builders called Athashri. It is well developed and within Pune city limits. To my knowledge, they have couple of locations. In these facilities, one can buy a condo or rent it from someone who has bought it. I have heard about similar facility in Talegaon near Pune. In Lavasa near Pune, similar facilities are there. I have read something about such facilities near Dehradun, and I am sure there must be more such facilities.  But they do not provide what is provided by Dignity Foundation.

The best of such facilities for me is one in Neral. It is on a hillock, with gradually sloping covered but open corridors. Golf carts are available for those who need them. The place is called Dignity foundation. 

https://www.dignityfoundation.com/Contact-Us.aspx 

The rooms that I saw were like a standard hotel room, with bath and toilet. It had a small cupboard and kitchenette too. They also provide round the clock nursing service if required. I know all the details because someone very close to us lived there for her last few years. They had an arrangement with Reliance Hospital if hospitalisation was required. When she needed an eye treatment, they sent their person with her for a couple of days to Mumbai for treatment. She used to paint, so they had provided her with a small room. Besides joint celebrations, they used to show movies and had many activities. 

When she died, the family suggested cremation in Mumbai. But their manager suggested that if there were no specific reason to do it Mumbai, they would arrange everything in NeralWe all went to Neral for cremation. After everything was completed, the manager suggested a small tour of the facility because some of the people had never seen it before. In the end, he took us to their dining area.

He said, “Sir, it is already 1.30 pm. The management has suggested that all of you should have lunch with us and know what kind of food the residents is served.” It was a standard home type food for lunch. But what impressed all of us was the gesture they showed and took part in the cremation as if someone from their family had died! We knew her last twothree years must have passed the way she wanted. It is not the facilities but the human touch that is important. After all, people who live there are far from their family.  

Cheats, Frauds or Failed Businesses!

Last few years have seen unprecedented situations in the construction business where tens of thousands of customers like you and me have been cheated by non-completion of the projects en mass and people are left in limbo. For many, their life’s savings have gone, on top of that, they have to pay the instalments against the loans taken by them.

Unitech, HDIL, DSK, Sahara, Amrapali group, Jaypee group are some of the companies who have cheated approximately 575000 flat owners all over India. Many cases may not have been reported for various reasons. But it is not only the builders who have done cheating. In other cases, the government and banks are cheated, the prime examples being Nirav Modi and Mallya. Recently it is found that in education “industry” too, this trend has started with staff not being paid their salaries for months together.

What is common in all these companies and individuals behind these affairs? After they started business initially, during rising markets, profits were enormous, and probably all of them felt that they had become Gods. Profits are never very high in the industry except in some IT and software related business and Narcotics! I know of an IT/Software global company who are absolute leaders in what they are doing. Even Intel is doing catchup game with them for the last 20 years. Their gross margins are 53%. So yes, the core group of people do buy Ferraris and have huge mansions. But they keep on working 24/7, 365 days. They also invest 30% of their profits every year in R & D. Recently one of their senior executives donated close to 40 million US dollars to start a Computer centre for teaching modern software technologies, at his alma mater. It was from his personal wealth.

All the cheats I am mentioning never bothered about such things and went beyond this, and started treating the companies as their private fiefdom. They diverted funds to personal accounts in hundreds of crores; additionally, they diverted money to different personally owned companies. So everything used at home, including their toilet papers, was spent by some company or the other.

The question that comes to mind is like the title of Count Leo Tolstoy story. “How much land  does a man need?” On the same lines, how much money does a family need? One crore, ten crores, hundred crores, a thousand crores? Maybe my assets are so small that I don’t understand what thousands of crores can do?

One thing is for sure, all of them become very arrogant and think that doors anywhere will open to them by saying “Open Sesame”! Probably they did open in specific corridors but current government in India, since 2014, is closing doors of their cells in jails. Or they have formally been declared fugitives. If this were to happen to me for such reasons, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror! But not these people.

How do they operate? How did they manage to cheat? In many cases, with the help of someone in the banks, in some cases by defrauding the bank. First major cheat located was Harshad Mehta, 25 years back. In connivance with officers in Bank of Karad, he magically created FD of Rs. 200/ crores and rest we know what happened.  In some instances, senior bank management may have no business sense, or they were bought with some quid pro quo deals! Chanda Kochar of ICICI appears to be the case of quid pro deal where her husbands business was helped against sanctioning of massive loans in Videocon case. In the case of Neerav Modi, there was one middle-level officer who knew the systems well. He helped Modi by doing paperwork outside the computer system. Modi would take every time even higher loans to return previous loans and balance money for himself. I had read the news that he was also in the business of fake diamonds! So maybe his working capital requirement was not high!

In the recent classic case, owners of HDIL in Mumbai joined hands with Bank Management of PM Coop Bank. The bank management ended up giving HDIL loans which were 73% of total loans sanctioned by the bank to all customers. Luckily sleuths have located 1100 acres of land purchased in last few years which is now attached. If there is a delay from the government side to find out the misdeeds, the money trail becomes very weak, and it becomes hard to track assets that can be attached. On Rs.600/ crores turnover, the family had bought two small aeroplanes, a yacht, and huge bungalow in Alibag which was used to invite makers and shakers of Mumbai and Bollywood for parties; also maybe there were collateral benefits (not damages 🙂🙂)

It also appears that these “business people” forget the basic principles once they become big. DSK is one such case from Pune. He came up with the really hard way of doing business. From small projects, he graduated to create a big condo project of about six thousand condos. He handed over the homes in time and had become famous in Pune. After this, he wanted to make a township which was worth more than Rs. Ten thousand crores (the US $ 1.6 billion). He realised that he would fall short of funds big time. Hence, he started raising money. Because of his excellent track record, people in Maharashtra gave him the money, but many internal issues were going on, which came out too late. He used the caste card and convinced Maharashtrian brahmins to keep fixed deposits with him. The deposits were serviced well initially, but later it almost looked like a Ponzi scheme. He forgot the main principle that FD’s are to be returned back to people. Interests need to be paid regularly. He started treating FD’s like equity. I have been told by a friend, one of DSK’s vendor, that vendors were treated shabbily. Kulkarni’s wife would treat vendor’s like beggars. Financially, they were already in doldrums and rumours started spreading; these were not rumours, things had gone out of control. Thousands of customers were cheated; hundreds of fixed depositors were cheated. But obviously, there was no change in his and his family’s lifestyle, they had 46 high-end cars. Their almost ready condos were also found to be under lien! The whole family went into jail. But there is no relief as most of his assets are already under some claim or the other. With all this, there was hardly any progress in the 1.6 billion dollar project!

Ranbaxy is a classic case of cheats. The promoters sold their company to Dai Itchi of Japan. But Ranbaxy concealed and misrepresented many things and finally lost their case with due arbitration in Singapore. But biggest fraud was that one of the brothers could not pay his dues to Dai Itchi as he had diverted Rs. 6700/ crores (the US $1 billion) to a Guru! It is honestly beyond my understanding what these people are trying to do and why they do it!

So it brings me back to the same question? How much money does one need? All these so-called big shots are in jail. There are huge problems faced by courts and the government as the assets of most of them cannot be sold for one reason or the other. So who will complete these stalled projects? How will the people at least get their money back?

I must share one story I was told by someone about a well-known industrialist. He had bought a Rolls Royce; after a few months, he ordered another one. When the industrialist was asked, “Why the need for the second car so soon?” The industrialist replied, ” We had dinner at my home yesterday. A well-known politician said that the car looked superb. I jokingly said, take it if you want. The person drove away in my car at night”! Quid pro quo?

Can one really spend the amount of money that is diverted in such projects? So-called fame, bungalows, homes in foreign countries, planes, yachts, but finally jail! Is the urge to mingle with movers and shakers so strong that they want to “arrive” by any means? I presume that all these are not bad people, but they lost control over their thinking. They all started thinking that the setbacks can be overcome by borrowing more, most of the time, fraudulently! Some of them have fled from India, but the government is making strong efforts to bring them back to India.

The main reason for this situation is that they all started thinking that they had become Gods; all doors to where ever they went would open with their money and fame. But only doors that finally opened for them were jail doors.

Don’t waste efforts on being Happy!

HappyCycle3

World over there is a considerably large industry called Happiness Industry or Being Positive Industry! You must be wondering after reading the title! Has Pramod gone bonkers? He looks like a positive guy; he always writes about being happy. What has happened to him? My usual pursuit of knowledge allows me to read different thought processes and documents from the world over. Initially, I was also surprised to learn some reports which said that our default status is not about being happy.

As per the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, happiness is “like a feather flying in the air. It flies light, but not for very long.” Happiness is human thinking, an abstract idea with no equivalent in actual human experience. Positive and negative effects do reside in the brain, but sustained happiness has no biological basis.

Humans are not designed to be happy or even content. Instead, we are intended primarily to survive and reproduce, like every other creature in the natural world. A state of contentment is discouraged by nature because it would lower our guard against possible threats to our survival.

Till we became an organised society ten thousand years ago by learning to farm, there was hardly any difference between humans and other species. Let us not say that humans were technically advanced compared to others. Look at the nests built by the birds; they are technical marvels. Look at the gut feelings of animals; many animals understand if there would be an earthquake shortly. Dogs can detect mines and drugs! Each of the species had their specialities. The common aspects were reproduction and survival instincts. Let me assure you the life was not easy then and it is not easy now!

I have recently written a blog about Happiness, and I thought that there is no point in writing details about happiness.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/happy-happy-we-shall-be/

The survival in olden days was from the severe nature, other animals or predators. Humans, with their intelligence, came up with many inventions and found some defence mechanisms, helping them survive more easily. But mind you, you have to endure still or survive. Even in the twenty-first century, we sight tigers and cheetahs in the Pune district. My son, Sachin, was saying that even today they have to be careful about Bears that are sighted in greater Seattle area, especially during winter.

Survival in olden days was from drought and floods. Is the 21st century much different? Today, there is a drought-like condition in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, even though half the monsoon is over. Last week a train full of water tankers was sent to Chennai. Assam and Bihar are facing severe floods due to heavy rains. People have been dying due to floods and may die due to drought too if sufficient monsoon rains don’t come.

So some population is in survival mode all the time. Have we forgotten about poverty on the terra firma? Development does bring prosperity, but still, a large number of people world over are poor! Survival against nature, other species to a small extent, and poverty is the requirement in the so-called modern world. Happiness is there, come on, I am not a pessimist! But it is there like a golden ray of the sun coming through the dark clouds! Happiness is a fleeting moment in our lives.

Friends let us not forget that happiness is that fleeting moment; it is like the flying feather taking a small flight before settling down. Our default status is a bit of struggle most of the times, surviving and reproducing. Is reproduction an easy path to glory? Yes, it is glorified as coming together of two human beings in a sexual act. Then there is that long struggle of nine months for the lady. The sexual act is the fleeting moment of happiness! The expected new arrival is a delightful moment for the couple and the family, with nine months of looming struggle. Morning sickness, too much weight gain in some cases, unexpected medical conditions like diabetes during pregnancy are the tough things the lady has to survive. Have we forgotten birth? It is supposed to be the toughest event in women’s life. If it is not natural birth, then it is the C-section and recovery from the surgery! In the whole gamut of struggle, there is that delightful feather taking the small flight, the newborn!

Each era has its tough times. In the four centuries between 14th and 18th, there were wars everywhere. The relative peace in between this time and the 20th century was a struggle against diseases, the world over. Hundreds of would die of plague, cholera and typhoid. There was no cure. Patients were managed by the doctors and not treated. Modern medicines were yet to come. The relative peace of this period was followed by World War I and World War II! The WW II ended with the dropping of nuclear bombs in Japan. Millions of people died in these wars. But war forced the world to look for cures to injured soldiers in wars. Sulfa and Penicillin were discovered in this period, gave humanity the miracle drugs! These dugs again brought the smiles and happiness back in our lives. Then one after another modern surgical and diagnostics methods have come. Has it brought permanent or long-lasting happiness in our lives? The answer is no! Yes, some cancers are now getting cured, but many new uncurable ones are getting detected. Alzheimer and Dementia are seen more as longevity has become the norm! So in between periods of survival, happiness is achieved.

HappyCycle1

What am I talking? Am I saying that you can be happy or you cannot be happy? Only thing I am saying is that happiness is there in life; don’t be after it. Don’t get driven by slogans to spend your money on books or programs. We are happy and sad in cycles. After a routine life sometimes there are events in life which make you miserable. The sadness does not last forever!

Similarly, after the sadness period, there could be routine drudgery, then there will be a sudden period of happiness! Both happiness and sadness are cyclic, and their cycle will go on. Happiness starts with the arrival of the new one. (don’t forget that the mother has given her nine months of tough period to achieve happy times of her life.)

In today’s parlance, I will give an example of this cycle. Your child grows old enough and takes wings to fly the world over, the way you wanted your child to go! You are happy, but then comes the usual drudgery of their life and their slowly become professionals. A grandchild is born, you are happy! But are not happy that you cannot see it immediately. Life goes on with happy moments, sometimes sad ones too! Then suddenly, your child can come home for a few days (please note that it is your home, not the child’s home) for a few days; there is happiness. Life goes on and on!

HappyCycle2

Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin called life. To your surprise, you will find that this is the only coin that stands on its edge most of the times. Only for a small duration, it becomes flat depending on the which type of event we have in life; happy or sad! Do you know that after some time has passed, the coin automatically stands on its edge, the phase known as routine life?  Don’t worry; I have not gone bonkers. Be as happy as is possible! You cannot tell the clouds to give space for the sunlights to come out; similarly, your mental phase happy or sad comes when its time has come.

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/ 

silent4

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.  

Silent1

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.

Silent3

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!  

 

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term. 

 My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence! 

“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”  

Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.  

Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time. 

As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.  

Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.  

Elderly1

So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.

Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.  

It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system. 

  1. Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above 
  2. There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)  
  3. I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!  
  4. Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities. 
  5. Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.  
  6. There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can 
    1. Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases 
    2. Take them to movies, dramas 
    3. Arrange community get-together for the elderly 
    4. Help them go to local offices 
    5. Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies 
    6. Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.  
  7. I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?” 
  8. Give them love and affection.  

Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.  

Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.  

Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future. 

Elderly2

 

 

What is good? Balance or Imbalance!

 

WorkLife3How does one decide what is correct and what is wrong, in our life? What is the meaning of the balanced life we live? This dilemma is faced by all of us. Since the last 50 to 70 years, life has become fast the world over, due to various things. In recent times the working from home concept and the facility has made life more comfortable but at the same time complicated and hectic. The work from home concept came up due to the internet, computers and space issues. People from organisations are working in the US, Europe, India and Japan. All have different time zones. A lot of work and projects keep on happening all 24 hours because it is working hours for some part of the office in the world. When there are some essential discussions people will join the meeting at 4 am, 12 noon, 7 pm or 12 midnight. Such meetings are many times regular bi-monthly meetings.

What happens to work-life balance in such cases? It goes for a toss! When you have such meetings, are you left with home life? Certainly not. But if you want to grow in the career such meetings, extensive travels, dinners, conferences are part of work life. So how do we keep the work-life balance? When we use the word balance, we tend to think about putting limits on either home life or work schedules. Neither is good.  People who must go home at 4.30 pm every day, come what may, tend to get noticed (and also tend to get a notice with a pink slip!)

Let us accept the fact that there is a work-life balance issue. You have a great career going, and you have a fantastic family life. What is this? Utopia? Fantasy? It is neither. The same problem or issue can be expressed differently. The balance that we are talking about is not the real balance but finding the golden mean. Trying to achieve the work-life balance limits many things.

The human race will not prosper or grow if we always talk of balance. The balancing act is a low aim, we don’t force ourselves to do better. We do not push us, our employers, our leaders to do better and better. Still in many companies waiting long periods is considered the ultimate, without checking the results achieved.

WorkLife4

We should aim to achieve everything but must remember that all that cannot be completed in one go. There are times when we can give more time to home life, and sometimes you are required to do the same for work. These should be treated as natural ups and downs of life. If you think big and look at the bigger picture, you are more likely to achieve your goal.

All of us work because we want to support ourselves, our families, and the people around us. We are all doing work that we’re proud of and that provides meaning and purpose to us. But even if our job does not make you very joyful each new day, working is a part of what each of us does and the contribution we make to our society.

When you separate work and life, then you cannot keep a “connect” between the two activities. But when you think of work as part of a full life and your daily ritual, then we can see that one is dependent on the other, for success and improvement.

What are the disadvantages of talking about balance? One can fall down badly if you lose the balance. That falling or failing will happen in our lives. We need to find a solution which will evolve rather than taking a fixed path. We have some good days and bad days and some ok days. This is a normal variation in life and can happen in both work and personal matters. If we are not mentally prepared for this evolution, then a faltering step will put you in a tough situation.

If you look for a very steady lifestyle, it never happens that way. Sometimes you may have to work longer, your spouse is unwell,  so on the way back, you will have to pick up dinner too! Sometimes you may have to miss an office picnic because your niece is getting engaged on that day! One does not have to feel sorry about both situations.

I will share with you an important event. More than fifteen years back my mother expired. She was 78. The funeral was at 5 am as she had died late at night. After coming home, we were trying to absorb what had happened. Jaya had some foreign visitors in her office, and there was a concluding meeting at 9.30 am. All of us at home coaxed Jaya to go and attend the meeting; the guests were to travel back home that night. What was the point in cancelling or postponing that meeting? Jaya came back home at about 11.30. Guests were never told about the event at home, and it was work as usual.

How was the lifestyle in my grandparent’s time? He would probably go to the office at 10 am. Was back home at 4.30 pm. By 6.30 pm he would have his meal and start preparing to go to sleep at 7 pm. He would listen to news on the radio in those days. There was nothing else to do anyway. Now we are spoiled for career types, for entertainment, social media and what have you! These days one has to be careful about the time spent on social media. It can severely damage your work-life balance.

Today Jaya and I went for a brunch with our daughter Priya. We spent one lovely hour together. The rule was to keep the phone away. Priya was allowed to answer the phone when her patients called.  We somehow managed to carve out quality time with Priya from her busy schedule. You don’t have to do the balancing act all the time, instead you act!

It is important how we talk about any situation. Let us avoid the balancing act of work-life and try to think about bigger and better things to achieve fulfilment. Don’t forget that our life does not move on what has happened previously. We can take our stand to achieve our goals. Doing a balancing act may never take you towards your goal.