Aarey, Quo Vadis?

Quo Vadis?  It is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?”, or more precisely, “Whither goest thou?” First, let me get the facts aside, then we will discuss it. Every metro system needs a yard to keep the trains, do repairs and maintenance, and to clean, etc. It is a technical requirement of the system. Currently, there is a significant dispute created by the so-called environmentalists! Aarey Colony has 450 thousand trees in the overall area, out of which the 2600 trees need to be cut for constructing the facility. I am not an expert in this field, but it is elementary maths that a minuscule number of trees are required to be chopped. Let the experts claim whatever they want to say, but it is no disaster.

If we consider the experts first, there will be some who are really knowledgeable persons; some have pseudo-knowledge. When there is chaos, politicians and celebrities are bound to jump in, especially as the Maharashtra state elections are only two weeks away. Politicians are supposed to be experts in every field anyway! Out of this group of people, some stay in new condos, and others live in older condos. My question to those living new condos is, was no tree cut to build the new condos? Did you complain to authorities and go to the courts to stop such projects? I am confident that in all new condos built surrounding the area of Aarey, more than 2600 trees must have been cut! Where were you, sir, at that time?

When a project of the importance like Metro, where costs are very high, every delay increases the cost of the project. All such projects are conceptualised by a large team of experts from every field, including environment experts. I am aware of the concept as it has been explained to me by my classmate Shashikant Limaye, who is a Mentor for the Pune Metro project. Then there are the green tribunal and the forest department. Permissions of all concerned departments are taken before environmental actions are taken! The beauty of the democracy (or the worst part?) is that in spite of following all the procedures, protestors can still go to court. These people went to various courts, and Mumbai high court finally gave a blanket clearance for cutting the trees.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/aarey-forest-tree-cut-felling-metro-bombay-high-court-pils-protest-1606393-2019-10-04

While providing this verdict, Bombay High Court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000/ on Shiv Sena Corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who had filed a plea against the tree authority’s approval to cut over 2,500 trees for the Metro project. Jadhav was a member of the tree authority.

Various questions came to my mind while reading about this episode! Do these “knowledgeable” people collectively understand the whole affair better? Some of them are experts in environmental aspects, but do they have the grasp of the overall project? The question is not only about the grasping, but there are many other aspects which you should know. I am giving the information provided by the BMC in the court about Carbon footprint.

Terracon aims to be India’s leading ecological solutions & natural resource management strategic consultancy firm. Its strengths include its technical knowledge and capabilities in the domain of ecology, botany, agriculture, and environmental science, as well as its deep understanding of today’s sustainability issues and the ability to design forward-thinking sustainability strategies.

http://www.terraconindia.com/

The Terracon report was submitted to the BMC recently. It says, “Each metro trip will result in a reduction of 324 kg of carbon dioxide.

One hundred ninety-seven fully loaded metro trips will suffice to offset the annual increase in carbon emission of 63,953 kg from the removal of 2185 trees, which are proposed to be cut.”

It further states, “The Metro III operations would cover the annual carbon sequestration by 2702 trees within four days of operations and the lifetime carbon sequestration of 2702 trees in 80 days of operations.”

The people protesting against the chopping of trees are aware of these studies as these reports were submitted in the court! That is why my title, “Quo Vadis?” What do you want to achieve by the adamance? As soon as the Mumbai court gave the clearance, within a couple of days, trees must have been cut by the Metro team. Still, the protestors have now gone back to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court case is about the felling of trees not stopping the shed work. Now that most of the trees are chopped, why do you want to continue the fight? The usual issues of, we know the best and the Ego come into play. All government authorities, agencies, Environmental Companies and the whole list of experts are ignorant according to these people.

We are not even discussing the convenience of Mumbai’s travelling people, who have currently no choice but to be in the current train compartments as if they are packed Sardines. There is a proven statistic over the years that ten people die every day in railway accidents due to ever so increasing crowding in Mumbai trains. Three thousand six hundred fifty people dying every year are less important than the twenty-six hundred trees.

Years back, there was a similar issue in Pune about road widening. The Industry doyen S L Kirloskar had asked a simple question, “Are trees for us or we are for trees?”

NalStop1

Pune traffic during rush hours.

A similar problem is lingering Pune about a road on a hill, which will cause a tremendous change in pollution, for 20 years. Environmentalists are creating difficulties one after another. The courts have been very stringent about tree felling activity in general. They ensure that if ten trees are felled, anywhere between 60 to a hundred new ones are planted. Courts also make sure that these agencies ensure and report that at least 90% of the newly planted trees are surviving.  Pune Corporation agreed to plant ten times the number of trees chopped; the “anti-development” people make use of the slow court system to ensure that the project will get delayed as much as is possible. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles that need not come to an area called Nal Stop are forced to come there, causing traffic snarls, jams and massive pollution in that particular area. Only God knows what their agenda is! There are many cities or towns on and in the hills. San Fransisco is the prime example of a major city on the hills.

Such groups exist all over the world. Some are really doing good work but most cause nuisance and create trouble for projects like Metros, which are Carbon “positive.” The human race has created many systems during the last hundred years that have made our lives much more comfortable. But later on, humans understood that during this development phase, some significant mistakes had been made, for example, global warming, plastics, and so on. Governments of the world (except it seems the US Govt) have accepted that there is a problem. Nations are correcting these errors, but the process has just started.

In many cases, solutions are also known. For example, in one-time-use plastic items, large investments have been made; so these investors are naturally going to resist. Even they want to go away from such products; but it will take some time to achieve the goals. Human race especially should know! A human takes nine months to grow in the mother’s womb before it is born. Once the corrective action process takes momentum things will move fast.

These anti-development groups are doing one vital work. They ensure that others do not forget that ecological mistakes need to be corrected as fast as possible. But they should choose the right causes. Mumbai Metro is a Carbon positive project and is going to help millions of people like you and me due to reduced pollution, and ease of travel. Most important is that people in Mumbai can travel in Metro like humans and not cattle!

A few friends were having a cup of tea in Mumbai near Aarey! All were smoking! One of them says while releasing the smoke, “This tree felling is bad, it will add to CO2 in Mumbai!”

Friends, please protest, reminding everybody of the ecological devastation of the earth is definitely essential; but be practical and become “a support group for Ecologically friendly and positive projects”! Get blessings of Mumbai train travellers and not their curses!

Advertisements

The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

My nephew Atul used to go to the UK to work as a doctor. He would go for a small duration, and every time he went to a new place. The English spoken in each area was so different that he sometimes wondered if he knew English at all! It took him a couple of days to get used to the pronunciations. In today’s world when your whole family may live world over but for that we all must understand the nuiances of human behaviour. We should not be judgmental about other people’s ways, rituals, methods and their way of life in general. Those who assimilate faster where they go can then say, “The World is my Oyster”!

The nature of humans, their behaviour, their way of handling life is different. We have similar differences in India too! Like Marathi spoken in Pune, Satara, Kolhapur have their distinct flavours and dialects. Aurangabad and Nagpur have their own variants. It all depends on the culture prevalent in that area. Aurangabad was more connected to Hyderabad and Nagpur is still more attached to Madhya Pradesh though both are in Maharashtra.

I was wondering why this happens, and there are reasons. Many times, the culture depends on the construct of the language spoken in that area. English is by far the most flexible language and has absorbed many words from other languages, mainly from Indian languages. It makes the language more vibrant, and people can express what they want more clearly.

French usually give a vague answer to queries, and they may start with a reply which may seem negative. The reason for this is that the French language has 70000 words compared to 500000 words in English. So answers in English can be more precise, where French replies are vague. The first and most important NO in French is the one that means ‘je ne sais pas’ the ‘I have no idea’ NO. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the NOS encountered are to conceal a lack of knowledge. It likely comes from the terror of ridicule for being wrong. The word non in French has its roots in the French obsession for protests. “The French Revolution was about the irrevocable right of all citizens to refuse, and ‘non’ has a quality of ‘revanche des petits contre les grands’ [revenge of the underclasses] that seems to satisfy the inner peasant or proletarian in every French person, of any class.

The unique Indian gesture that often leaves visitors to the country flummoxed is the Indian nod. One thing all travellers to India talk about – apart from the dreaded Delhi Belly, of course – is the great Indian head nod. It’s not exactly a nod (up and down from the neck, meant to indicate ‘yes’) – or a shake (straight side to side to convey ‘no’). It’s a smooth movement that involves tilting the head from side to side vertically, either gently or fiercely. Does it mean a definite, yes? Is that a kind no? A maybe? A sign of uncertainty? Annoyance perhaps? It is difficult to say without knowledge of the context. It is almost always a ‘yes’, or at least indicates agreement. “There is also an element of being friendly or being respectful, and it is difficult to say which unless you know the situation.” Indians are brought up to be pliant and polite, especially to guests and to elders, and do not like to say ‘no’ directly. Indians mumble incoherently; smile sheepishly, and nod vaguely, all to put off making a firm commitment. Indeed, the head nod is a gesture meant to convey ambiguity and does so effectively.

Finnish people have different ways. Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. One of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’. But read the next surprising aspect of the Finnish people. With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off. Probably they don’t look at each other much while wearing clothes and hence don’t recognise them!

Germans and their language have different ways of expressing things. Many new words get created by combining more than one word. Schadenfreude means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude puts together schaden (harm) and freude (pleasure) – but this is common. Compound words often can’t be directly translated into other languages, so jokes made with compound words simply won’t be funny to non-German speakers. For example, look at this joke below.

“Why can’t you pick up your watch if you’ve dropped it? Because no Urheberrecht.”

It is explained that Urheberrecht means ‘copyright’ – but German has another very similarly pronounced compound word – Uhreberrecht – which has a literal meaning of ‘watch-pickup-right’. When spoken aloud, it’s the dual implication that results in a comical effect. In English, there are no such similar-sounding words, so English speaking people simply won’t understand the joke.

The German comedian Christian Schulte-Loh explains it well. Fully aware of the stereotype the Germans are labelled with, he writes in his new book, Zum Lachen auf die Insel (To England with Laughs), that Germans are too honest to be polite and the English are too polite, to be honest.

Why people behave in a certain way? Why people react in a certain way? One thing we must realise is that people world over are the same as everywhere else. The way we feel that the actions of other people as funny, other people also feel the same way about us. It is a popular notion in India to call a stingy person, Marwari! There is a reason. The Marwari people initially lived in Rajasthan in the desert region. It was the shortage of water and everything that made people care about using all resources. Now the Marwaris live all over India, they are a monied community, but their fundamental nature of minimum wastage has not changed.

I have seen that people in the Aurangabad area have a different way of communicating. People typically say namaskar whenever they meet. But in Aurangabad, I have seen people doing Adab, and their gesture is made in the way as is done in Muslim culture. Why is this so? Aurangabad is in Maharashtra. But the reason is that till ’60 s of the last century, there was no bridge on the river Godavari at Pravara Sangam. Bus from Pune would go up to the river, people crossed the river in a boat and took another bus from there to Aurangabad. Hence Aurangabad had more connection with Hyderabad, which has Muslim culture. By the way, one interesting observation. People from Aurangabad become परेशान  when they are troubled! A word typically used there.

People travel a lot these days, in India as well as abroad. I always tell friends to keep their mind open and accept what you find different in new places. Enjoy local food at those places. Go and see local plays and dances. The more we see these new things, the more we realise that people are the same all over the world!

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् is the apt term in Sanskrit, meaning the whole world is a family!

Is 450 a prime number? The Math controversy in Maharashtra!

I am so good at Mathematics that I am 100% sure that the number after 449 is 450! But is 450 a prime number? Is 450 divisible by 3 or 5 or 7? What is the square root of 450? What is the nth root of 450? My first statement is 100% accurate, but after all these arguments, I am now uncertain how good I am at Maths. What is the meaning of being good at Maths? Is your aim in life to become Dr Mrs Naralikar or Dr Naralikar? If it is not so, then you do not need to know the answers to all these questions. Why do we need to learn any subject? Why are we introduced to so many subjects while we are students? I assume that the main idea is to make us a rounded personality. See, the aim is to round off; we do not need to know the figures in fractions or fourth decimal in real life. 450 is good enough in real life instead of 449.9999999… etc. Is 450 a Prime number is a rhetoric question!

Recently there has been a big discussion going on in the state of Maharashtra about the way numbers are spoken and pronounced in Marathi. Mathematics expert Dr Mangala Naralikar declared that by changing the way the numbers are currently pronounced, Mathematics as a subject would become easy to learn. Majority of people find Mathematics very tough and challenging to learn and understand. This difficulty can create problems in these people’s day to day lives as their skill sets may not be good enough to perform basic transactions in day to day life. QED!

Q.E.D. or QED (sometimes italicised) is an initialism of the Latin phrase “quod erat demonstrandum”, literally meaning “what was to be shown”. Traditionally, the abbreviation is placed at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument to indicate that the evidence or argument is complete, therefore used with the meaning “thus it has been demonstrated”.

See the Mathematicians want to say “I am done with a problem”, but they make it complicated by using the term QED!

Maths1

People taking part in Maths Olympiad, people talking of Fourier transform, discussing algorithms among themselves is fine, but when they start talking about their expertise in a WhatsApp group of ordinary human beings, things become tricky. Is Math Olympiad winner a genius or Sachin Tendulkar? Who has achieved more? Is achievement in Cricket lesser than achievement in Maths? In the academic world, a lot of importance is given to people who are good at Maths. They are considered geniuses, super intelligent, and so on. Is being good at Maths so important in life? In our day to day world, too much emphasis is given to Maths. One writes excellent poems, or she is a fantastic singer. Is it not good enough? Are you dumb if you are not good at Maths?

Ok here is a disclaimer! I have done Master’s Degree in Engineering and have learnt a bit of complex Maths. Come on! How many engineers use Maths in their day to day work! In my school days, there was an emphasis on knowing number tables by heart. Smart ones were expected to know tables up to 30 and also the tables for 1/4, 1/2, 1 1/2. I remember an incident which happened ages back. We were in Dallas in an amusement park. We bought something to eat, and I had the US $7.38 ready to pay. When the girl completed her calculation, I paid the money. She was surprised and asked me if I were a genius. I just smiled. I felt as if I had conquered the Mount Everest! (Not exactly, some minor peak!)

Why is Maths challenging to learn? I can find so many reasons. Proper methods of teaching and good teachers are the most important ways of making Maths attractive. My daughter Priya had a teacher who mixed up between one million and one hundred thousand. Then students are afraid about answers; in Maths, these are either right or wrong. Because of this black and white clarity, the human gets a little worried because he is proven dead wrong.

Many researchers think that teaching to find out approximate value is one of the best ways of teaching maths. Using approximation teaches your brain to collate your eye observation and brain calculation. If there are 25 oranges in a tray, ask children to tell the number of oranges without counting. By observation, we start to understand how to visualise and then count.

Many things can go wrong while learning Maths. You may know the method, but you may not see the reason behind it. So any variation in the problem will create issues of understanding. You will start feeling that you are not good at maths. It can so happen that you have solved the problem correctly almost till the last step, but you make reading or writing error, and write minus instead of a plus sign! Examiner will give you zero marks! QED! You are not good at Maths! But it is not so, you only have made a small error in reading or writing!

Learning Maths is like putting the building blocks on top of each other. If the foundation is not right, then you will find it difficult at a later stage. What you learn in school, you should know even at a later stage in education. Some of us are required to use mathematical knowledge in the day to day work too! Knowing fundamentals is essential for such people.

Maths2

The slide above shows where Maths is used in different streams. While I was doing my Master’s degree in engineering, we had Prof Wartikar who taught us Maths. For three months, he explained to us why Maths is essential to understand engineering subjects properly. Till then, we just used to study and appear for Maths exams without understanding why we were doing it.

maths3

You don’t need things shown above in day to day living. To me, the fear of maths will go away if you have the right teacher to teach you. There is one crucial aspect, dyslexia.  People with Dyslexia find it very hard to learn maths for obvious reasons. One more critical point is that some people have the brain needed for Maths, and some don’t have the brains for Maths. These two extremes are not more than ten % of the population. But it is the rest 90 % of the people in between who face problems in Maths. What do we know in real life? Plus and Minus, a bit of multiplication and division. In real life, it does not matter if you take a minute more to count your notes.

What is the big noise about anyway? It is not that people do not count even with today’s method of pronouncing the numbers. With digital payments and computerised billings, you don’t count these days. The world has enough people who are quite comfortable with Maths, and they will perform the necessary tasks where complex maths is needed. Others are only users. It is ok if they find Maths difficult.

In all this episode, I saw a giant size ego coming into the picture. After some other experts created a big noise against the new method, the authorities declared that they would rethink about the original approach. Dr Mrs Naralikar proclaimed that if this happens, she will resign the post! Why? Can it be only my way or the highway?

Human Traits!

The more we live in this world, the less you are surprised with human reactions. Poorest of the poor will share food with the needy, and the rich guy will not give a morsel to the deserving. I am talking about human behaviour and the so-called traditions that are followed in our society. Now that I am near the seventh decade in life, I get a feeling that I have been there and I have done that. Nothing will now surprise me anymore. I suddenly come across surprises.

We have a lady who does cleaning work at home. She is 36 years of age and quite a chirpy lady. She asked Jaya for a couple of days leave as her daughter was to travel back to her husband’s home. Surprise one. The daughter was here for the birth of her second child. Thirty-six years of age and the second grandchild. Oh! Maharashtra is a progressive state; child marriages have stopped long back. I asked Jaya why does she need a couple of days of leave? There is a tradition in their family, that when the daughter goes home after delivery, her inlaws are gifted with 150 Puran Polis! Puran Poli is a Maharashtrian delicacy; it’s a bread with a sweet filling and very tricky to make. In the current summer weather, the Poli can quickly get spoiled! But who cares, there is a tradition, and it must be followed. How can any family finish 150 Polis before they get spoiled? But logic is not part of the culture. The anecdote is from the family who are in the lower economic strata. The expense to make the Polis must have been around Rs.1000/. That is a lot of money for her plus several hours of efforts.

But here is one about people from very high economic levels. There is a housing society in Pune Called Himali Soc. It is one of the oldest high-end housing societies with row houses and condos. In Pune, we usually have water scarcity during the summer, especially when the monsoon gets delayed. The people from that society complained to the municipal corporation about the water supply. Since the problem was not getting resolved, the society people kept on complaining. Finally, the corporation sent a team of people to check the issue. They found that there was no apparent issue with the supply side. Still, the problems in homes persisted. They started checking individual dwellings. They were shocked to find out that out of 30-row houses, 25 had installed pumps, to pull the water from the main supply line. Using pumps is strictly against the law. They acted immediately and confiscated all 25 water pumps. These are supposedly highly educated, sophisticated people living in a high-end society. But they were in the least bothered about the law and the inconvenience it caused to others. I am sure most of the people must be leaders in their own fields. For small gain, they behaved in an incorrigible way. Is this fair? Is it the right thing to do? These people could have easily bought their drinking water supply if required. Friends, do you approve of such behaviour?

Then there is one funny story about a petty criminal. The person is 49 years of age and is a habitual offender. Sometime back he had a minor fight with a cigarette kiosk owner. The criminal beat the owner and stole a few thousand rupees from him. He was duly caught by the police and kept in the lock-up at the Police Station. At night, he started making noise, shouting and created a big ruckus. He had a habit of making a show which an outsider would think that the person is mentally derailed, almost on the verge of being mad. Most of the times, the Police would get fed up with him and his noise. The situation would ensure that the Police release him. The officer in charge that night was a smart person. He decided to send him to a large hospital to check his mental health. The doctors put him in the psychiatric patient’s ward. The patients from the ward, started to interact with our petty criminal, they would hug him, they would shout at him. They would scream at him. On the third day, the criminal got both scared and fed up. When the Police team came to check about his health condition, he privately told them that he was wrong and he would never throw the tantrums again, ever. He requested them to remove him from the ward. He now behaves appropriately in the jail without troubling anybody.

Modern technology has achieved a couple of great things. It has given a gift of longevity to people in India and has brought old friends together. Whether longevity is a boon or bane depends on individuals and their attitude towards life. I have observed that people die much later these days. In my father’s generation, dying after a few years after retirement was the norm. When people died between 60 and 70 of age, it was not a surprise. But now this range has moved more towards 75 to 80. As usual, it has its pro and cons. One thing is your attitude and secondly the money. You now need more money after retirement than you would need previously. Once you are sure that there is enough money, then it is up to you to see how you remain happy.

From one of my groups, people have been doing many things; we are all around the age of 70. Pravin, the singer, has now started writing poems and does some paintings. Sudhakar has been doing lovely pictures for quite some time. Hemant remains busy as the board of director for several organisations. Vasant is active with social work. Another friend takes discourse on religious matters. One more friend has formally learnt to perform puja and goes to various homes as a priest. Suresh teaches yoga on weekends in Sydney, Australia. Surendra has passed a competitive exam and now is going to take admission to a full-time course to become a lawyer. I have now joined an online course at Oxford University for creative writing. Two or three friends have already checked with me the procedure to start a blog site on WordPress.

You must be wondering why I am telling you all this. Friends remaining busy is in our hands. First and foremost, we must remember that we are not immortals. Ill health, poor eyesight, physical disabilities are going to be part of our lives one day.  We may become bedridden for some time. But we should not get discouraged by what is going to happen in future. People do many new things post-retirement, you need to find your path to enjoy life, to find happiness. So are we going to give up?

People from our age group and above can set standards for future generations about positive attitude. Let us help overcome the negativity of the so-called traditions. Our “rich” traditions will continue, unfortunately. In countries like Japan, people handle their lives on their own, happily in the age group above 80. They have been doing it for many generations. By showing that you can be happy even at a late stage in life, we can make this a better world! Let’s do it!

Wake-up People!

When we are born, we do not know what we are going to do in our lives, most of the times. But some are born, and their destiny is written at the time of birth! Like some are born to become kings and queens, or heir to a business empire, some are born to become Presidents of a political party. Children following their parents footsteps and sometimes parachuting at high positions is a routine phenomenon. It is known that such children listen to the subject discussions at home from childhood, so they are likely to be more mentally ready than other children 

But what is the Dharma of whatever we do in our life? We should try our best to act from the bottom of our heart and true to our ability. But does the world behave this way? People under the garb of modernity, liberal thought, show as if they are giving the yeomen service to the society. But in many cases, it is observed that the denominator is self, to hell with everything else, including the nation.  

During and after the recent election, a lot of discussions were going on about Political Pundits, Experts, Reporters and their ilk. What is the job profile of these people? To my understanding, these people are supposed to be connected with people at ground level, have the feel of what is happening. The ordinary person like you and me are supposed to be enlightened by these Gyanis! But have things happened this way? The answer is an emphatic NO!  

PranUncle

How did things go out of hands? Years back, I had met Mr Pran Chopra, who retired as the chief editor of The Tribune. We met at Naukuchiatal, near Nainital during a holiday. We were together for almost a week, and the insights that we got about the life of reporters and the way newspapers worked in those days were interesting. The gist of what he said was that in whatever they did, the truth and the nation were the two main interests. Everything else was secondary. Now everything is reverse of what Pran uncle mentioned.  

We have been hearing about Luteyns gang or Khan market gang often. But these are not the only people who took this route. At the local level, too, in every state, in every capital, in every significant newspaper, the sycophants and people with selfinterest existed in large numbers. All these people had become blind with their own thought processes, their analysis of the situation and their prediction about the electoral mathematical equations, the usual caste and religion! They forgot about a small thing, the people. People who vote were last on their mind. They were all busy cursing Modi, looking down at NDA and assuming that caste, equations, statelevel bosses were good enough to win the election and form a non-BJP government in Delhi. They appeared to be drunk on their self-judgment. They were so blind to the realities of life that even when exit polls started indicating a resounding victory for NDA, they simply refused to accept the polls. Many said that the lowest numbers shown in a poll were the correct numbers and those too were exaggerated. Reporter after reporter would give his/her theory how finally “Acche Din” (good old days) will come once the current government loses.  

Personally, I am for any leader or a party that tries its best to improve the state of the nation, the society and the people. I really don’t bother if party A is winning or B. All governments, leaders make mistakes, have their quota of blunders. But the government should have the least number of corrupt people. In India, we have seen that the number of schemes that have been floated since independence are the means to make money. The leakage in such programmes was reported to be very high, and only 15% of the money reached the people. The % is very similar to social work done by Rotary Clubs where their social work “achieves” the same success rate! In the case of Rotary, the money is spent on dinners, parties. In one example, the money is blown, and in the other, it is made; but the result is the same.  (Disclaimer- I am NOT a rotarian and this information is shared with me by some resrious rotarians!)

How did such close groups start? In Delhi, you were either an insider or then you were an outsider like Modi. The insiders went to the same schools and colleges like Stephens and Oxford. Everybody knew everybody; either your brother or sister was together in the class, or you were neighbours in Delhi, of course, Lutyens Delhi. Your address could never be Chandani Chowk or Nizamuddin! The coterie was formed, and modern court jesters were born. You got the exclusive news leak and were always the part of the gang of reporters on foreign jaunts on the Prime Minister’s plane. On TV shows or in your weekly columns you wrote and discussed whatever was fed to you; your stomach was too full to challenge anything.   

Of course, some reporters did their job and somehow managed to “break the news”, in spite of the coterie! Such people were challenged and openly called to be working for “interested” groups. But the coterie never bothered to take a look at their own face in the proverbial mirror!  

Why were these people against Modi and BJP? I can understand having a different political viewpoint. But is it possible that anything and everything that is done by a government is wrong? Chidambaram was finance minister in the previous government. He writes an article in Indian Express, every Sunday, discussing how all the steps taken by the government are leading India to the precipice of no return! In the financial world, every decade or so, we get recession, stagnation or sometime stagflation. But this is the part of the natural economic process of correcting itself. The world had the same issue in 2008, and in 2019 the same problem has started. Car sell is plunging by 25%. Instead of talking about the economic cycle, these people start blaming the government as they are now out of favour, out of their “dole” from the government.  

One crucial thing everybody forgot was that everybody’s assumption about the default people in India. Some kept on thinking that default ruling party or an alternate option was Congress; like people thought that default business families were Tatas and Birlas. When Dhirubhai Ambani came and took over, nobody knew. Ambanis turnover is now Rs. One lac crore. Similarly, when Congress got 44 seats in the 2014 elections, the same group thought that it was a matter of time and Congress would be back with a bang. NDA was the new Ambani of the political scene, was never understood by these people.  

But some of the intellectuals have realised their error and have openly started writing about their mistakes of perceptions. Shekhar Gupta, a well-known commentator, has  publicly accepted in the interview below that somehow he was blinded  

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=372025410115387&id=234508140533782 

Meghnad Desai is another person who is bluntly telling Congress about the irrelevance of Rahul Gandhi.  

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/out-of-my-mind-dear-rahul-just-go-5760615/ 

It comes back to the same thinking; a democracy prospers only when there is a good, positive opposition party. Opposition should be constructive. Even today, Congress made a statement that with around 50 MP’s, they can make life miserable for the government in the Loksabha. Is that your narrative? Where does nation come into the picture? Where is the positive intent?  

These changes will happen only when people introspect, (Ashok Chavan has made a statement that Congress lost in Maharashtra because of Vanchit Samaj party ditched them at the last moment, Congress was perfect in what they did), show positive intent, have pragmatic policicies, not just shout the slogans.  

We should learn from the Westminister System followed in Britain by having a shadow cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet or Shadow Ministry is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each member of the Cabinet. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to scrutinise the policies and actions of the government, as well as to offer an alternative program. The Shadow Cabinet makes up the majority of the Official Opposition frontbench. Is it not a better alternative to stopping work in Loksabha at the drop of a hat? 

 

 

One person’s dedication is Adhar (support) to many!

anuradha

In our society, we have a different type of people. Some are born to do social work for the community. Some of them get accolades and publicity. But a few dedicated people remain away from the limelight; they keep on giving back to the society without expecting any publicity or praise. From where do such people get their drive to work for society? One thing is sure, they are born unique. One such person was Late Mrs Anuradha Umrani.

She is the founder of the Trust “Adhar Mandal” and the School “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya”.  She was a 45 years old housewife, had a bit of time on her hand as her children had grown up; that is when the thoughts for doing something for the society started coming in her mind. She did a Diploma in Special Educations (For hearing impaired children). During the course, she realised the importance of the problems associated with hearing-impaired children. Therefore, she decided to devote the rest of her life for the upliftment of these children and founded a school for them. The result of her dedication, focus and drive, started an institution called “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya” in the year 1985. (School for hearing impaired children). As we have seen many times in this world, GOD also likes such persons. Anuradha tai died young, at the age of 53 on 16th April 1997.

She started the whole project from scratch; the entire concept was hers. As a housewife, she was not trained for teaching the deaf and dumb children. She decided to take formal training and did a diploma in special educations. The adage of “the woman behind a successful man” was true in her case too, in reverse. Her husband, Prof Umrani, has more than 45 years of experience in teaching various engineering colleges in around Pune. He steadfastly remained behind her and continuously supported Anuradha tai’s dream while still working as a Professor in colleges. He taught the courses in Electronics & Telecommunications! Jaya and I were his students while we were doing engineering in COEP. He had told us about the school for some time, but finally, I could find time from my not so busy schedule, a couple of days back. I was more than impressed.

S_M_Umrani

Umarani family is a family like ours, with a middle-class background and no political contacts. For Anuradha tai, the starting point was getting the land on lease from the Pune Municipal Corporation. With no political experience and contacts, she somehow managed to get a plot through sheer perseverance. After she got the plot, getting funds for the project had been the trickiest of the part. But somehow people started supporting her project. Umrani sir told me during the discussion that though they now get government grants, delays in getting money creates severe cash flow issues even today.

I went to see the school. Currently, there are around 120 students. Out of these 40 are residential students. The building is neat, spick and span and well looked after. The building area is 8000 square feet. They have a water filtration system for the full school. Boarding students are both girls and boys; they get good sumptuous meals. I visited the school on Holi. You guessed it right. I tasted piping hot Pooran Poli and Amti! All the students had hearing aids. Teachers had modern teaching aids — many of the classrooms have E-learning facility. Retaining teachers is not an easy task; these teachers must be specially trained to teach deaf and dumb students. But some teachers work pro bono and teach because they love teaching; it is their social work.

All students from the school are from financially low-income strata. Up to 4th grade, the school gets government aid. But after that, there is no government aid. The school gives education up to 7th grade. These students are also getting help to appear externally for SSC examination. The Adhar Mandal manages its expenses by collecting donations. Their main problem has been that the families do not send their physically challenged kids to such schools at a young age;  the tendency is not to take too many efforts on these kids and to leave such children to fate. Many children join the school at the age of 7 or 8. Umrani sir felt that these kids lose four years of specialised training they could have got, had they joined at the age of 3 or 4.

For such specialised training organisations generating funding and collecting donations is the main problem. Umrani family has been running the school by giving full-time support and advice which of course is pro bono! For the family, it is taking forward the inspired efforts of Anuradha tai! Umarani sirs son also helps him in the background; he is busy running his own software business. You may have already guessed Umrani sir is now 80 years of age, but his energy is unbelievable.

Through hardships and against all the odds, Anuradha tai’s leadership brought the school to a respectable position in the State of Maharashtra, India. I have yet to discuss with Umrani sir, but I would like to know in detail what inspired Anuradha tai to take up this venture. I know about people who were educated to start some venture, but in the case of Anuradha tai, she took the specialised education at the age of 45 to take up this venture.

I feel that she was a born management expert; otherwise, how can you start such a specialised venture continue to run it for 12-13 years; probably her experience of running and raising the family was her essential experience. Of course, after 1997 Umrani sir has taken over the baton!

I am also going to request Umrani sir to write how Anuradha tai managed to do it from scratch. It will be a case study for many. Even if one or two people get encouraged by this, it will be worth it. Creating such type of ventures by thinking out of the box is very important. I am sure many such hidden gems like Umrani family are among us, in need of being found out.

Let me share some details about the school below. They are available on the net too!

http://aadharschool.org/index.html

The aim of the trust:

The Trust aims to provide educational facilities to the physically disabled children from rural and economically backward families, rehabilitate and bring them in the mainstream of Society with respect.

Friends, I have written this piece as I was inspired to write about Adhar School. Please try and visit the Adhar School one of these days; maybe you will also get motivated to do something.

Diabetes or DIETese!

Diet5

This blog is going to be an attempt to make us look at diets in a lighter vein. Take your diet seriously but don’t take your self seriously. I get worried when people my age take diets too seriously! But this applies to all age groups. Please do not take this blog seriously, I want people to enjoy their diet!

I am a normal human being who is handling diabetes for the last seven years. I know what diabetes is but here is my disclaimer. My knowledge about Medicine is zero so what I write is based on the internet and social media (which I take with a pinch oh sorry, a fistful of salt) and interaction with others including medical experts. After this brief background of what I think I know, I am going to write about the confusion that is created in my mind with diverse and conflicting information about diabetes.

Ok, let me clarify that the word DIETese is not a spelling error. I feel that DIET is a “sickness” that has recently cropped up and it is spreading as much as diabetes; hence the word DIETese.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a life-long disease that affects how our body handles glucose, a kind of sugar, in our bodies.

Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent than type 1. Hence I will write about type 2.

The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. It’s what lets your cells turn glucose from the food you eat, into energy. People with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but their cells don’t use it as well as they should. Doctors call this insulin resistance.

At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to try to get glucose into the cells. But eventually it can’t keep up, and the sugar builds up in your blood instead.

Some of the reasons for diabetes are

  • Genes
  • Extra Weight
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Too much glucose from the liver
  • Bad Communication between cells
  • Broken Beta Cells

Is diabetes reversible?

All the literature available says that diabetes is manageable but not reversible. I know someone who has managed diabetes for more than forty years. Through diet changes, excercise, weight loss and by taking medicines under doctors advise, people are managing diabetes. The drugs that are given are not able to reverse the body condition that causes diabetes. The literature says that very early detection and enough weight reduction can partially repair some of the damaged cells. In that sense, diabetes is partially reversible. But in most cases, since the symptoms are not severe in the initial phase, detection is delayed. Hence chances of cell damage reversal are less.

Following are different methods of controlling diabetes

  • Taking medicine
  • Exercise
  • Diet control and reducing carbohydrates from food
  • Snacking- eating at short intervals of two to four hours
  • Calorie control
  • And many more

I am now going to discuss mainly about diets. I have heard of Tripathi diet, Divekar diet, Bose diet and the latest is Dixit diet. Each one of them has different thinking and ways of managing things. At least I have not heard of Divekar and Bose diets talking about diabetes control; they speak mainly of weight reduction and control. These diets talk about snacking and suggest eating the food that we usually do. Eating more carbs is harmful anyway, both these diets recommend a reduction of carbs from our food. Tripathi diet suggests a diet which is different than what we typically eat. Dixit diet talks of having only two meals a day, but eating regular food.

When I read about these diets, a few questions cropped in my mind. How long should we follow the dieting regime? Should we eat foods during this phase which we usually don’t eat? In Tripathi diet, I understand that eating Jowar, and Bajra Bread (Bhakri) has been suggested. In India, people from different states and areas eat different types of food. In northern India, people eat Wheat and Cornbread. They eat rice only on special occasions. In southern India, people eat foods based on rice. They rarely eat roti or any bread. Jowar and Bajra Bread (Bhakri) is consumed in certain parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. How can people from North and South adjust to this diet? How long can they eat Bhakri? How long should such diets be continued?

That brings me to the method of testing for diabetes. The first method is fasting sugar and Post Prandial sugar. This combination gives some indication of blood sugar at that particular instant. The second method is HbA1c value; HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin (A1c), which identifies average plasma glucose concentration. This value is the average of the previous three months. To a layman like me, the first method is a photograph taken at that instant and the second method is like a video made for the previous three months. To give you an example fasting & pp values were 105/160 on that day but HbA1c value was 7.0! These values don’t confuse me anymore.

I have read Dr Dixit’s speeches where he starts with a comment that his diet is for people with obesity issues. I will share with you his quote from the Times of India. “Giving information about a diet plan that is helpful in an effective weight loss program and prevention of diabetes, Dixit said that his regime is not for the individuals below 18 years of age, and the people who are already suffering from diabetes.”

My confusion starts here. A lot of people who are already diabetic sing paeans of the Dixit diet whereas Dr Dixit is saying that it is not meant for people who are already diabetic. For weight reduction eating two meals a day is an obvious solution. (I am talking of non-diabetic people) If you have only two meals, how much can you eat at a time? By accepting this, diet does not let you eat food at will. If this is Dixit diet for weight reduction, then you don’t need a diet. The simple rule is that if you feast on food all the time and don’t exercise your weight is going to increase.

A lady weighing 90 kgs, went to her doctor and said, “Please help me reduce weight.” On asking what she ate on that day, she said, “I had sweet tea in the morning with a few cream biscuits, had breakfast of potato hash brown and eggs. My husband comes late, so I had a fistful of salted peanuts. He got delayed, so I had two pieces of Mithai before a late lunch.” The doctor said, “Madam you had two full meals before lunch.”

My second confusion. My understanding of sugar values is that when we eat food, the sugar goes up and then starts reducing. In Dixit diet (which is not for diabetic people as per Dr Dixit) after every meal you do not eat anything for eight hours. The gap reduces sugar level in the body, and your body is going towards hypoglycemia. You remain in hypoglycemic condition for the majority of the time. What is the result?  As you are hypoglycemic most of the times, your HbA1c value is going to reduce. Can anyone continue such diet life long?  I don’t think so. To me, HbA1c value reduction due to “Dixit Diet” is a false indication. Once you start your food at regular intervals, your correct values will get reflected.

I have a suggestion for people on Dixit diet. They should wear saffron and live in the Himalayas. You call them, “Hey, let’s have coffee at ten at Vaishali.” “Oh, I am on Dixit diet!” Next week you call again and say, “Buddy Dilip is the town we are meeting at five for some Chat and Bhel.” “Oh, I am on Dixit diet.” How many times are you going utter this sentence? Are you stopping socialising because of your diet? How long do you want to continue? Don’t forget that you can get out of circulation fast. Your friends will have fun discussing your diet. My question is what happens if you take a couple of tablets a day, maintain discipline? Don’t forget that beyond a certain point your tongue becomes very active and demands food which you have been eating for 40/50/70 years. Wear stylish clothes and eat your bhajiya occasionally; don’t take me seriously about saffron. A minor binge is not a crime, don’t keep on thinking only about your diet!

Some of the effects I have observed on people who are on diets (this is my definition of DIETese)

  • People having diabetes (and on diet) keep checking sugar values very frequently
    • I knew someone who would check values three to four times a day and change his medicine dose on his own
  • Keep checking their weight every day
  • Decline to attend programs where some eatables may be served
  • On one on one level, they say that they are always anxious
  • They get hunger pangs if they keep long gaps between two meals
  • Some suffer from acidity
  • Others get migraine

A friend started Dixit diet and declared that his HbA1c value reduced from 8.5 to 7.5 in three months. He was in the US with his daughter and used to eat three ice creams every day. He stopped eating that and ….

Diabetes is manageable DIETese is not!