Evolution of Human Social Life!

Social evolutions go hand in hand with scientific evolutions!

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We always talk of scientific evolution, industrial revolutions and progress of sciences. Evolution of human thinking about life and the way it is lived, is probably equally or more important. My thinking is based on practices followed in Hinduism. During initial thinking, a couple of thousand years back, life was divided in three parts; Obligation, Success, Pleasure. I am not talking of Ashramas as discussed in Hinduism. Later, freedom was added to the thinking. In Sanskrit, these are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. I feel that addition of freedom, was necessitated due to social changes, in parallel with changes in science and technology.   

I am trying to understand life style evolutions, going hand in hand, with scientific evolutions. I was wondering why the Moksha was not included initially as a part of human life. I think, that not many people really reached the age of freedom or Moksha.  

Dharma or Obligation was about doing the right things. This involved creating the right thinking in human mind; don’t become selfish, think about others. When we live in a society, the societal norms and etiquettes need to be followed. These have evolved over a period of time. In this phase of life, it is our duty is to learn societal norms. During this phase, humans also get married. Marriage is not only coming together of two people but it is about coming together of two families. This involves readjustment in your lives. This phase has undergone a major change. In olden days, marriages took place between bride and groom, who lived in the same vicinity and whose families were known to each other. The marriages took place at an early age. From time immemorial, there have been hierarchies in our society based on caste, creed and many other parameters. Ones station in life was decided by these parameters. Marriages also took place initially, dictated by hierarchy. King’s family did not marry a commoner. Have these things changed today? It is both yes and no! 

There is a typical Hindi word बिरादरी, which means fraternity. Marriages still take place within fraternity, caste and so on. But there is a big change; people now do marry outside fraternity, different castes, different religions, they can be from far off places, or from different countries. With more education, people tend to get married late. Our thinking is slowly adapting to these changes. This is major social evolution or even an upheaval.  

In adulthood, one gets established in life, simultaneously while establishing in a job or business, but both are equally important. This is the success phase. Over a period, in this phase, now there is a big change. As late as 50 to 70 years back, one finished education, got a job, got married, procreated and retired from the same job. A few years after retirement many simply died! Now post education, someone may start a business right away. On the other side it is no more surprising when people continue with their education till early 30’s. By the age of 30, I had a six-year-old son and had a work experience of 6 to 7 years. This changing trend has its own pluses and minuses. But system does evolve itself.  

Trends in the stable phase of human life are also changing. This is now a phase where people procreate, work, travel and have fun. This goes hand in hand with their professional work. Now we see many cases where both husband and wife work. People tend to be busy 24/7, 365 days doing various things in life. The trend of buying homes and big cars, as soon as possible, is also coming in vogue. Adding to these changes, another important aspect that has changed is, from joint family structure, we are switching over to nuclear family. Money in plenty is available but home support is diminishing. Our society is adjusting to these changes too! Crèches, home staff, drivers become your “family” for support. When people live in foreign countries, their parents go and live for months together for support; but in the end parents do come back home. Nuclear family of old parents is also becoming a norm. This recent trend is mainly because of globalization and IT industry proliferation. 

I feel that pleasure and freedom phases have merged and these phases start a little late in life because the medical revolution has increased longevity. People live much longer than before; life expectancy was 31 in 1947 in India now it is 66. This indicates that larger proportion lives much longer after retirement. By the time of retirement, major family responsibilities are over. Financial commitments are lesser and finance availability is much better. This is the time when pleasure phase is in top gear plus freedom to do things, that were not possible during busy phase. I have an argument which may be, a bit controversial. In olden days, after the productive phase, Moksha or merging of soul with cosmic soul was thought to be final phase in life. During those days, there was hardly anything else to do than to follow the path of Moksha and try to achieve nirvana. Hence the term merging of soul with cosmic soul was used. I have nothing against trying to give up so called pleasures in lieu of bhakti or following the religious practices to achieve moksha. But now moksha is an option, not like olden days when it was the only option.  

Large number people travel, follow their dreams, maybe start a new venture in this phase! This social change is happening rapidly due to advent social evolution in tandem with ease of travel, ease of knowing about far off places. There are online courses available for photography, learning new languages, gardening. There are facilities to learn details about Bhagwad Geeta and there are special religious tours arranged for senior citizens. This reminds me of a joke. A guy tells his friend that he was about to book a religious holiday package for his family with parents. When he went to ask his parents, the father said, ” Sorry son can’t make it! We have booked a holiday for Bangkok and Pattaya!” Social change, anybody?  

Moksha is liberation from cycle of birth & death. This is taught by our religions but religious thinking which is part of social fabric also undergoes changes, along with technological changes! When no other option is available we adopt to existing conditions. But current social changes in pleasure and freedom in life can be considered like migration of young people looking for better options! So, Moksha or evolution, what is your take? I will prefer Moksha in St Moritz or Gangtok anytime! Come join the new Moksha brigade!  

 

Longevity bane or boon?

Wish to live as long as possible is natural but achieving the same to enjoy life in Golden Period needs efforts!

Vilas, my friend, wrote an e mail on our college group about human longevity and role of pharmaceutical companies in the same. This brings us to the good old discussion, longevity, is it bane or boon? In recent past, we all have seen products, treatments and methods to delay aging. Hoping to be around for longer time is a natural instinct! Both men and women, are using different products, trying to look young, dying their hair black and so on. There is plethora of creams, lotions, treatments, massages, health routines, health drinks available to us. The commercial organizations make such things available to us but to buy or not to buy is our choice! Such products were not available even 50 years back.

Vilas had made a comment that these pharmaceuticals companies keep people alive to make money. I replied to his mail saying that I don’t agree; in that e mail exchange, Sudhakar and another friend Pramod prodded me that this is a subject on which I should write a blog! Something kicked in from within and thoughts started flowing in my mind. What is longevity, what is old age? These definitions change as the years pass by, and/or we go to different countries. In Japan one of my colleagues’ father is 92 years old, 2 or 3 times a week he travels by Metro to get stuff for home! Old age? What is that? Last year we had taken Alaska cruise and there was one grand old American lady, all of 99 years of age, traveling alone on the cruise! You may say that these are exceptions but I don’t think they are! In a country like Japan population of 80 plus people is quite large and average age at death is between 85 & 90.

 Just a generation before ours, in India, our parents generation, old age started with crossing the age of fifty and at the time of retirement at 58 or 60 the Vanprasthashrama started. The currently available medicines, diagnostics tools and treatments were simply not available then. So if you had a heart attack, you simply died in most cases. Before the responsibilities of people ended, their health and wealth both were on the wane. Today’s Golden period never really dawned on that generation. There were two reasons, deterioration of health and wealth. Post British Raj, we were a poor country hence there never were savings to write home about. Even if ones health remained good, there was no money around to enjoy. But most important plus, for that generation, was there was always something to look forward to! Children, grandchildren were mostly around. Families always had something going. But for our generation with nuclear families, children migrating, we have to create our own things to look forward to! 

 In our generation, in general health has improved both bodily and financially. Slowly, in front of our eyes, we have seen that in today’s age 50 is like 40 of olden days and so on. Today’s 70 is like 60 of last generation. The overall improvement in situation is changing the definition of old age. Discussion on death was taboo in older generation. Now people at least in my group talk openly about health and death. With this change in thinking people are trying to take things in hand and are discussing about “medical will”! For example people are discussing openly, that in case of defined major health issues, they would not like to be put on ventilator or would not like to undergo major surgery. By taking such parameters under control people really want to enjoy their golden period and say quits when it is not worth it!

 There are ways to keep reasonably healthy. The most important is discipline. Whatever we do, only discipline is going to help. Some might feel that your behavior is regimental but to achieve your goal you need to be very rigid about discipline. I will tell you my story; I was detected with severe diabetes, HB1C value of 11.5, five years back! I love sweets and this change had occurred between two yearly tests. What I did and still follow is discipline, discipline and discipline! I stopped eating sweets from the next day, I exercise regularly anyway. Started medication and switched to low carb stuff. In the third year my HB1C was found to be 6.0! In between I went through cancer treatment for about three months! My doctor was very confident that I will bring things under control because he was aware of my discipline. Why I shared my story with you is because we are probably the first generation in India, that may be able to enjoy the golden period of life! Add to discipline, positive thinking; that is one more thing that will keep you healthy.

 Is longevity bane? No I don’t think so! There are many different ways of keeping healthier and fitter at my age (I am 68). Healthiness is equally important for both body and mind. For body, exercise and yoga are the key but for mind there are many different things. You can learn something new, things that you always wanted to learn but never got time. A friend of mine today told me that post retirement he has joined a music school to learn to play Piano! Great going. Maybe you wanted to try your hand at photography, travel, painting or reading. Do it! Doing things you love to do, is my definition of Golden Period! Golden Period definition changes with person to person. Somebody may want to join bhajan singing group, some may like discussion group on modern technology. Thirty years back my mother was in such a group but it was very rare in those days. That group had retired general managers, high court judges, house wives, teachers and what have you. They would invite people to give 15 to 30 minute talks on subject ranging from puarans, health care, or to get to know about latest aero planes. Their only requirement was that the speaker should explain in such a way that they could understand the subject. Groups formed 30 years back were the beginning of many such groups mushrooming now in the form of Alumni groups, Office colleagues groups and so on.  

 Staying connected with family and friends is another great way of remaining healthy. After taking care to remain healthy, things can go wrong but this should not happen for want of trying. Another secret of remaining healthy is to keep updated with new things like gadgets, technologies and happenings all around! So much information is available easily on the net these days, it is crime to not know things. My grandmother died at the age of 85; was she keen on what is happening in the world! Whenever I went to her house she would ask me information on different things in the world. She died in 1985 but she used to read the newspapers really in details. My brother in law is 81 years old (he was professor of commerce) and is having many health issues. A couple of weeks back when we traveled only to meet him, we found that though the flesh was not willing, his intellect was as sharp as ever. Currently he is mentoring one of his students on a project for making solar drier which can be used by plethora of people! He wanted my advice and thoughts on marketing the product! Last week I had a discussion on WhatsApp technicalities with my Grand-nephew! Another way of keeping young!  

 Vilas mentioned in his mail a figure of 75 years of age, beyond which he felt it may not be very pleasant to be around. Yes possible, on current data available. But I am sure this data will change a lot in next 25 years and maybe 80/85 would be that age! Jury is still out on definitions of Golden Period, threshold age. But I am quite sure that this will be a moving target all the time! And finally, YES! The old age is a boon!

So long dear friends, Al Vida!

Al Vida is a Hindi word meaning Goodbye! This year has been a bit rapid in the wrong sense! I lost three dear friends of mine to the almighty till today, 11th April 2017. I am not writing an obituary but I am writing random thoughts that come to mind when such deaths take place. I am now 67 and it’s not a big deal really to face that your friends or family are dying. I know the realities of life and know very well that one has to go at some stage. My first such experience was when I was in final year of school and I had lost a friend to destiny. I have written a blog on this event

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/he-is-gone/. That time it was a big shock!

In my grandparent’s time, he died at the age on 89, reaching that age was a miracle! Medical science and other allied sciences were not yet really developed and reaching the age of 50 was a great feat. Probably this threshold has already gone up to 55, then slowly to 60. My father and father in law both died at the age of 63. Celebrating 60th birthday was a great event then. People were considered to be at their prime around age of 40/45. Things have really changed now; almost 10 % of my batch mates from engineering college continue to work and are in reasonable health. Another maybe 50% are in good health though they have retired. People go for walks, treks, climb hills daily or hit the gym.

Now people are considered to be in prime around the age of 55/60 and I have known a few who have started new ventures after crossing 60. Definitions of old age are changing rapidly in India, the age bar for doing new things, new achievements has gone up! Besides improvement in medical sciences what has helped to raise the bar? New technology has brought people together. The isolation that older people had to suffer is now almost becoming history because we are in touch many people and many of the contemporaries are still around. This has definitely added to improved longevity.

I only feel sad that two of my friends who died, passed away almost instantaneously. Third friend was unwell for a few months. I don’t know the details about their health status for the period before they died. My other friend Suresh who was an Air Force pilot, flying MIG 27, had once told me. “Pramod, planes are as good as the way they are maintained. Except for one system, all hydraulics can be checked on the ground; only one system gets checked during flying. Similarly there is no sudden heart failure; there are signals which are ignored or sometimes due to diabetes the person does not feel the pain.” Had these two friends been a little more proactive in getting themselves checked who knows….

In this world time is the same for everybody. One minute for me is the same one minute to everybody. How we use this one minute is what matters. If we are day dreaming, thinking of future for ten minutes, we lose ten minutes from the current time which we could have spent better. Similarly if we had used those ten minutes to remember what we had done in the past, the net result would have been the same. It is the current time that is THE time!

Out of the three friends that I lost one of them was current time person. He would enjoy life to the fullest, whatever he was doing. He passed early morning. He had just come back from a party a couple of hours before he died. He had the real zest to enjoy the life. His son had shared the following on Facebook, sometime back. It is a perfect fit to my dear friend’s style!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he neither lives in present nor the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies never really lived.”

My friend really lived life and it is not easy to be so zestful all through your life. Thank you dear for showing us the path how to live and in the how to go!  Goodbye, Al Vida, My angels!