Atmanirbharata-Self Reliance!


Tejas Fighter

Atmanirbharata is a word that came into circulation, recently. The term means Self-reliance! When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, all the “experts” and the political opponents decided that India was being taken back to the stone age. They declared that India is going back to the permit Raj. On the other side, China baiters started screaming “Ban the Chinese products” and some such slogans. Self-reliance means the reliance on one’s own powers and resources instead of those of others.

How can a society, state or a nation become Atmanirbhar? For any change to happen in humanity, it is the smallest part of the vast populace must become Atmanirbhar first.

Self-Reliance” is an 1841 essay written by American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow his own instincts and ideas. Emerson emphasises the importance of individualism and its effect on an individual’s satisfaction in life. He stresses that anyone can achieve happiness and become Atmanirbhar, simply if they change their mindset.

The philosophical thinking about Atmanirbharata has been prevalent in the world for a long time. Since most have not analysed the term, the usual expert comments are thrown using strong expressions against the thought process. Atmanirbharata has to start from childhood. We teach our kids to crawl, walk, run and ride a cycle. How do we do it? We do it by encouraging them. We explain to them that we can fall, and get hurt, but unless these things happen, children do not become independent. These actions are the fundamental actions that we need to know about life’s journey. We all know that kids love them, they want to be Atmanirbhar in their life. I am talking about physical acts. So, what should we do about our mental facilities? Should we not become Atmanirbhar in our thinking too? Do we like to be pushed by someone- do it this way, do it that way! Do not use your brain, do as I tell you!

The physical part is eating, drinking, toilet training and so on! As children grow, formal education begins. All these are things designed by and for life’s university. If done well, the child grows up into a self-reliant human. The family, school, the society, the town, and the nation become self-reliant if everyone becomes self-sufficient.

When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, what did he mean? He did not say bring draconian rules of license raj. Do not stop imports of things that make the nation dependent on the other countries even for basic things. No nation in the world can become 100% self-reliant because of various reasons. There are hundreds of reasons for this, but that is not what we are discussing.

Assuming that we are a nation of self-reliant people. They take up jobs, they become businesspeople. They become officers and pilots. Within their sphere, they have to act to get the things to the best of their ability. I will share an example of an individual who is a buyer for an organisation. The management decides to cut expenses to improve profitability. The buyer’s job is to find the correct supplier of quality goods at the right price. The buyer looks around, locates the supplier in China, and starts buying from him everything. That my friend is not Atmanirbharata. He should have checked why the cost is so low. Is it sustainable over a period? What happens in situations, like COVID? The buyer did not spread his risks- then he failed in making his company self-reliant! Deciding your policy in such a way that in all situation his organisation should remain self-reliant. Atmanirbhar anyone?

I had shared an example of the Indian Motorcycle industry, becoming world-class in a short period. The sector still buys components from China, but the Chinese companies are more dependent on our Motorcycle companies. That is Atmanirbharata.

During the spread of COVID, in India, there was a shortage of everything needed by health professionals like doctors, nurses, ward boys and ambulance drivers. Within three months, we started making a massive number of PPE’s, Masks and what have you. Now we can probably export these items. We ramped up our facilities and capacities to make ventilators in large numbers, so we do not need to depend on other countries. Mind you, not every component required for ventilators may be available in India. But by importing these components, we are well on the way to become in the manufacture of ventilators. We did the same thing in COVID test kits- this was achieved by a small company in Pune.

The first big Atmanirbharata decision taken by the government is opening up the Coal sector to the private sector. In future, India can export a lot of coal!

Let us now consider the year to year problems faced by our farmer brethren. Though we have made significant progress in irrigation, our topography, and financial constraints (and not to forget corruption!) make farmers dependent on rains for water. Regularly, the rainfall is short or too much. Many times, we do not get rains when most needed. So what is the solution? I had written a blog about Jalyayukt Shivar, a drive, by the Maharashtra government to make farmers self-reliant for their water requirement by digging water reservoirs in every village. The rainwater is stored in these reservoirs and could be used when needed. Friends, it is Atmanirbharata at its best. You do not need Chinese or American components for this project; you need the will-power and smart thinking to make such projects a reality. When I wrote this blog, we did not even know the word COVID 19. There was no China hate in the air!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/jalyukt-shivar-a-new-drive-in-water-management/

My friend Ram sent me an article about Ulhas Paranjpe, Ram’s batchmate in engineering. Ulhas has developed a technology by which villagers can build water tanks by using Ferrocement in construction; this method more than halves the cost of building the tanks.


I have taken the liberty to share his cell phone number here. He is just one phone call away and gives telephonic advice on how to build such tanks: Ulhas’s Cell plus WhatsApp number +91 98207 88061. The web site: http://www.jalvardhini.org/

Are we taking India back to the dark age? Is this going to be the permit Raj again? Many of these experts have probably never seen a village and give expert advice on the TV channels and spread their (lack of) knowledge. Or maybe they have an agenda against the government!

Atmanirbharata does not mean that you do not use products made in other countries. Any product or services where our nation does not have expertise can be brought in, but the locally available products must be procured locally.

What is the point in getting Ganapati Idols, Decorative items, Manja used in kite flying? These items are IndJalvardhiniian, and the traders started importing them from China because they were getting more margins. End-user did not even know that these items were made in China. This is negative Atmanirbharata.

Very few countries in the world make aeroplanes. India had no choice but to import them. But over a period, we have developed a fighter plane, Tejas, for the Indian Air Force. That my friend is Atmanirbharata. Not all parts made are in India for our fighter plane.

Jaya, in her career, had made great strides in Atmanirbharata. She took training in Canada for some systems, in 1981, which cost eight hundred thousand dollars in those days. One system was imported, and Jaya got fourteen such systems made in Pune, at Rs eight hundred thousand each!

Friends, Atmanirbharata is no China-bashing, it is not going back to license Raj. It is being prudent in what we buy and what we produce in our country. Go ahead and import a few things from China or where ever you want. But do not outsource Chole Bhature from Philippines and Rasgulla from Bangla Desh!


Pandemic endings are very, very messy!  

Pandemic is an epidemic of disease which has presently spread all over the world. The current pandemic has spread across the globe. The main difference in the recent pandemics and the previous ones is the communication methods of the 21st century. These communications include travel modes, personal and public communications. Sitting in your home, you can see the TV channels from the world over. You can be in touch with your near and dear ones 24/7 using voice or video methods. One can have “family meetings” using apps like zoom! 

With all the technology around, except for the Vaccine or the cure, the whole world knows everything about the current situation minute by minute. Sometimes it loses seriousness and looks like a commentary of sports events. The number of deaths is just a number like strike two in baseball, and the number of wickets fallen in cricket match. We are lucky that these commentators do not shout like in football, it is a goooooooal 

Why am saying that the ending is going to be very, very messy? None of the pandemics that occurred before ended medically except smallpox! The last patient for smallpox was seen in 1977. But all other pandemics have tapered off into a situation, where people started getting used to them. It means that the problem does not come under control medically but socially. People and governments learn the methods to contain them and to overcome the fearLockdown is a tested and proven method 

I will share with you with the information about the Bubonic plague. I am giving you the history so that we may understand how COVID will go away.  

Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak. 

The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats. 

The plague began in 1331 in China. The plague continued for some time, along with a civil war, that was raging at the time. It killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the people of Siena, Italy, died. It seems, as far as diseases are concerned China and Italy seem to have a great partnership from olden days.  

That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighbourhoods trying to rid them of the plague.  

The 1918 flu is the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the Flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide.  

We have already seen that people are getting fed up of restrictions. Governments are worried about social revolts. The movement of migrant workers in India to their native places is a classic example of the same.  

Governments relax restrictions which give them a kick on the butt in some cases, e. g. Singapore. In India, the numbers during the last week are increasing fast. Chennai is leading “the charge”! Mumbai is already in trouble. But still, place like Delhi wants to relax restrictions. Why is that so?  

There is reason. I mentioned about influenza, which killed millions, a hundred years before. Now we are so used to it, that we have become friendly with it. We have now given it a pet name “Flu”! We are so used to it, that we even go to the office or wherever even when we have Flu! Why the change? We have got used to it. We sometimes do not go to the doctor to get treated and take selfmedication. It is unbelievable that the same Flu had killed millions. 

There is a reason. Diagnostics are better, our knowledge is better, and medicines are more potent. The same thing is going to happen in the case of COVID. Vaccine and treatment for the same is a distant dream. But in South Asian countriesthe pandemic is much weaker than in Europe and the Americas. Even in these places where the pandemic is smouldering, discussions about relaxation have started.  

Now why it is going to be messy? I will now talk of only India. With the help of technology, we have managed complete shutdowns. Shutting down is a more straightforward process because restarting is a complex process. We have Red, Orange, Green zones. All these zones are present in states, districts and large cities. Then there are containment zones. All our economic activities have become dependent on Pan India suppliers and transportation of goods. Maharashtra does not have Steel plants, so the Steel for construction has to come from somewhere; if that somewhere is in Red Zone, we are stuck. The same thing happens in the Automobile industry. Most of the car manufacturers have some vendors in Pune and around. Pune is the Red Zone! You get me! Migrant workers have gone home, and the economy is trying to restart. One may not get trained people. Do you understand why I am saying messy? 

No, you have not understood. The second wave may come back after a few months! But hopefully, as time passes, we will have the cure and the Vaccine! The old cars, when they sometimes did not start, a technique called Dhakka Start (Push and put it in gear and hope it starts). The start and stop can happen for the economy too, and the word Messy will be an operative word for some time. We will learn to live with another term, Collateral damage.  

Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations. But the term can be applied to the current situation when we are trying to restart life after Reset! There could be some deaths when the pandemic returns. There could be business loss due to some sudden sever surge.  We should be prepared for this collateral damage.

The travel and leisure industry has a large clientele like us senior citizens. But as far as Jaya and I are concerned, 2020 is out! At most, we will travel to Mahabaleshwar in our car. Many businesses will limp back to normalcyMany things we have assumed to be safest, like air travel, will be hotbeds where the virus can get spread easily.  

Life is going to be Messy soonWe are already getting conflicting requirements from the Chief Ministers of different states. Some want to open everything, and others want to play it safe till May end, at least. Each city, each district, each nation is going to have conflicting requirements. Some say let the train and bus services start; others say not yet!  But we are dependent on each other for almost everything. Messy? Very, very Messy!  Now I hope you get me what I mean by Messy!

 

Leaders of Indian Democracy- a tough journey!  

I prefer not to write blogs about politics, but so many things have happened in the last six months, that I am compelled to write one more time. The blog is not about comparing leader A with leader B. It is about the leaders who took decisions and moved forward as against those who preferred the status quo. It is about accidental leaders; it is about “leaders” who were led by remote control. The discussion is also about the changes in society and its thinking. Hindsight is always 20:20. So it is easier to comment on things that happened sometime back. We need to understand that today’s times and decisions will only be understood better 50 years hence. History is an easier science than prediction.

We also need to consider separate periods as “Before the Internet” and “After the Internet”! Nehru led the post-independence era. The society loved the handsome, cigarette smoking prince. One hundred and fifty years of British Raj ensured that society became naïve.

Anything that the authorities did was considered good, and people rarely challenged them. The nation glorified poverty, but Nehru’s fashionable lifestyle was never challenged.

The first significant unrest was in the late fifties as Maharashtra was being split into Gujarat and Maharashtra. During this agitation, people from Maharashtra wanted Marathi speaking area around Belgaum to merge in Maharashtra. In this agitation, 106 people died in Police firing. It led to the conversion of Flora Fountain in Bombay into Hutatma (Martyr) Chowk. The leader at that time was Moraraji Desai. Then there was Goa agitation. Indians wanted Portuguese to leave Goa. But this happened after a lot of unrest and a small armed forces confrontation. Then occurred the 1962 China war, where Indians were unprepared. Luckily, China stopped the fight unilaterally. It was the first kick that made us understand what the real world is all about. Nehru’s downfall started from this incident, and he died, a sad man, in 1963! India continued to be led by the old guard as they never wanted to retire. China war did not need history to prove how India was ill-prepared to face the world both politically and otherwise.

Shastriji’s quiet leadership during the 1965 war made India a little more confident!

In the case of decision-taking leadership, history decides whether their decision was right or wrong. In came Indira Gandhi. She had to remove the old guard, which she managed with aplomb. Indira Gandhi took two significant decisions. She helped Bangla Desh to become independent, thus splitting Pakistan. The act indicated that India had some spine! You don’t need only to be tough, but you also need to show that you are tough. She nationalised all the banks leading to the start of the socialistic era in India. In hindsight, it proved to be not a very right decision. For joining the global economy, it was a retro step. Her next brave decision was to send the Army into the Golden temple in 1984! Had she not taken that decision; Khalistan movement would have created another Kashmir due to indecision. Operation Blue Star resulted in her assassination, but it was necessary to have Blue Star! Here the terrorists were Sikhs! They were trying to take advantage, hoping that the government will be soft and will not enter the Golden temple!

Rajeev Gandhi took some excellent decisions about computers with advice from Sam Pitroda! But his miscalculation cost India dear in Sri Lanka; LTTE took their revenge by assassinating him in Sri Perambuddur!

By the time Narsimha Rao’s term was over, the system got used to status quo. He is said to have opened Indian Economy to the world. But this was done under duress in 1992 as India’s financial condition was critical. India had to borrow money against “family” gold. Coalition governments, Bajpayee Government and later Manmohan government were in status quo mode. Good, soft people sometimes are not enough to run a vast country like India. India is a complex country and has diversity. Different people think differently and want their solutions to suit themselves. These may contradict with the requirements of other states!

The effectiveness of government actions, people’s reactions and court interventions collectively define the society’s acceptance or rejection of any event. Two events show how unfortunate events were allowed to happen. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the silent support by the then government allowed hundreds of Sikhs to be murdered. The Gujarat government was a mute spectator and silent supporter of riots after the Godhra incident. But during the last ten years, “Post the Internet” news and rumours have started spreading fast with the advent of social media.  The significant aspect of the Internet is that Government cannot hide any news from people. But at the same time rumour mongering is rampant. The courts intervene whenever they can at a reasonable speed. During the recent CAA event, there were 99 litigations entered with the Supreme Court. The court quickly acted upon these by clubbing them together. They told the litigants that CAA could not be stayed legally, at the same time they informed the Government to have all India campaign to share with people the detailed information about the law. The court told the political litigants to stop the riots first before the litigations would be heard.

Now let us talk about the government from 2014. The government took actions on many issues and went away from the status quo norm. It has been acting fast and is seen to be implementing many schemes. Aadhar Card, GST was the action started by the previous government but was implemented by the Modi government. When massive all India changes of this nature are being implemented, problems do crop up. The opposition must question the government for errors but should give support in the process. Article 370 was a similarly swift decision by the government. Ayodhya Ram Mandir decision was handled with finesse by the government!

Similarly, NRC has been in discussion for more than a decade. The Supreme Court had intervened in 2015 and had given the directives to the government. But one thing is sure; the current government is taking fast actions and not maintaining the status quo! At the same time, people have changed. During the emergency in 1975, the people of my parent’s generation were not brave enough to show dissent, openly. “Post the Internet” information flow has speeded up. It is a good thing that people of my generation express disagreement openly, now. The young people of today have been trying to push the government effectively. After all, these are young people, so they behave like young people. In their enthusiasm, they go overboard and make significant mistakes. They are, after all, young folks are with hot blood. It is the responsibility of opposition parties to ensure that harmful elements of the society don’t take advantage and create an unhealthy atmosphere by rioting and arson. It is the responsibility of every adult irrespective of their political allegiance to help make these demonstrations peaceful! Demonstrating against something which we don’t approve is our right given by the democracy.

Governments usually act when their backs are to the wall, or there are elections around. Current governments tenure is till 2024! So these actions were not crucial for them to act.

In a diverse country like India, it is difficult for any government to take action which will please everybody. Now with BJP losing elections in many states, there will be strong opposition at the state level, which is essential. But state governments must remember which laws are in the Central Government list and which ones are under state government list. They should not take an unreasonable stand like eight or ten states have said that they will not allow CAA in their states! The position is legally not tenable because it is under Central Government list. By taking such a stance, these states are starting unavoidable fights.

What is my preference; a government taking actions or status quo governments? Status quo is a big no, no! Any entity that acts is likely to make mistakes, like Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Such acts are known immediately to be vicious. But the effects of other actions would be known after twenty or thirty years.

But one thing is for sure that all governments should be benevolent and be soft on people, especially the young ones. They should ensure that society does not get divided. It should not be us versus them under any circumstances. Words like revenge are not acceptable. The UP government recently used this term. But at the same time, the UP government is the first state government in India which has shown the guts to use the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling allows the authorities to fine rioters to reimburse the property damaged. Today it is easy to prove the participation in riots because of video recordings.

Action, softness with people and non-divisive methods will lead to vibrant and better India! There will be some unhappy people whatever you do! But one thing is sure. There will be tough decisions, there will be fights but my country will never be divided! There will be Prime Ministers who take actions, but there won’t be dictators!

India’s tallest flag at Guwahati!

IndianFlagatguwahati

Mumbai saga!  

Recent political saga brings questions to my mind! Is this typical human nature? Is everybody so powerhungry? Where do voters like you and me remain relevant? Many voters had voted for the alliance between BJP and Shivsena, but they fought about the chief ministers post and split. Shivasena joined the opponents, and it has formed a government in alliance with the “secular” former opponents the Congress party. Shivasena is strong proponent of Hindutva principle, and Congress has always been a “secular” party. Secular is defined as not connected with religious or spiritual matters. 

In between, Ajit Pawar of NCP “joined” with BJPFadnavis and Ajit Pawar took oath as Chief Minister and Dy Chief Minister. That was another episode from the saga. The government formed lasted only for a couple of days, thanks to the Supreme Court. 

Saga1 

All these happenings appear to be a stolen script from the Epic of Mahabharata. We have two Epics, Ramayana and MahabharataRamayana is the epic which follows utopian text and Mahabharata has the reallife script. The last three days story of Fadnavis taking the oath was a shame on the democracy. One felt like shutting the eyes or not putting the TV ON. One felt like not even reading the newspapers. It was a shameless behaviour. It can be compared with the disrobing of Draupadi in public by DushasanaHer modesty was saved by Lord Krishna by supplying an endless supply of sarees! Similarly, the Supreme court’s order to prove the required strength of MLA’s within 24 hours saved disrobing of democracy in Maharashtra.  

saga3

Ajit Pawar openly went against his leader Sharad Pawar and tried to break the Chakravyuha set up by his uncle Sharad PawarAjit Pawar like Abhimanyu thought he had the knowledge to break through the vyuha. Like Abhimanyu had learnt half knowledge about breaking of chakravyuha while he was in his mother’s wombAjit dada thought that he had learnt all the tricks from his guru and uncle, Sharad Pawar. But he did not know that he had only half the required knowledge.  

In Ramayana, when Lord Rama went for 14 years of vanvas, his brother did not take a quick jump on the throne. Bharat’s mother Kaikeyi had played her cards well to send Rama to vanvas. But Bharat was loyal to his brother, and for all these 14 years he kept Rama’s paduka’s (footwear) on the throne as a gesture to show his respect to Rama. He looked after the administration under the tutelage of Rama’s paduka’s and was representing Rama. BJP and Shivsena fought the election under the leadership of BJP. Once the results were out, they took the role exactly reverse of Bharata. By breaking the partnership with BJP, Shivasena has sent BJP on five-year-long vanvas! While doing so, they have accepted the terms of their “opposition” of not making Thackrey’s son the Chief Minister! If they had shown the same maturity in discussions with BJP, they would not have broken their pre-poll alliance!   

In all this saga, where does the common man like you and me stand? People voted to the BJP-Shivsena pre-poll alliancePeople voted the candidate in their area irrespective of his party. The vote was for the alliance. They had faith in the coalition and not on individual party. They now feel cheated 

The show was the politics at it’s best or the worst! One crucial point comes to mind. These parties run on donations given to them by their cadre and some other organisations. The money is given to run the affairs of the party. But they have shown so much faith in their MLA’s that these guys were put “under house arrest, in fivestar hotels. These were about 150 people. They were in hotels for about ten days. If we consider an average room rate of Rs. ten thousandthey spent Rs. 1.5/ crores minimum. The first thing is why fivestar hotels are needed to keep these people “under arrest”? The second thing is why these MLA’s are required to be kept under “arrest”If this is the faith the parties have in their MLA’show will they ensure that in future MLA’s will not rebel? Once the government is formed, there will be dissatisfied soulsBJP sitting on opposition benches is not going to keep quiet. There are 26 independent MLA’s, so they probably need additional 15/20 MLA’s. In Karnataka, BJP showed patience and got a chance to form government after a couple of years! Poaching of MLA’s is nothing new, but now there are good laws like anti-defection laws in place! Maharashtra saga may show the way for creating some good laws against breaking alliance after elections have been won with pre-poll agreement 

Politics world over is the same. It is the methods of handling the situations that vary. Brexit is a classic case of the political mess in Britain. Young people, who are affected the most by Brexit did not take part seriously in the referendum. When the results were out, Britain had opted for going out of the EU (European Union). There was enough time for Britain to exit smoothly, but the successive governments handled things poorly. The result was that a Prime Minister had to resign. Second Prime Minister who thought that he could sail through has been stalled at every stage. He was finally left with no option but to call for an early election. What the election results will do, is anybody’s guess. I am sure there must have been many internal offers to switch votes for the MP’s. But in Britain, they don’t “arrest” their MP’s against the fear of revolt. But the result has been the same, confusion.  

Both democracy and dictatorship have their pros and cons. But democracy has more pros than cons. People prefer to live in political uncertainty rather than living under the fear of tyranny. Look at what is happening in Hongkong. China is trying very hard to push her ways and take control of Hongkong, but the people of Hongkong are fighting tooth and nail against the changes China is pushing!  

Besides election troubles and chaos, governments world over are experts in creating a mess. Currently, there is big story going on in the Parliament in Ireland. A huge printer worth 1.3 million pounds was ordered. When the printer arrived in the parliament house, they realised that it could not be taken inside the building because of the size. The printer was moved to a storage godown at the cost of two thousand pounds a month for almost one year. The location was corrected to accommodate the printer that cost another twenty thousand pounds. Finally, the printer was installed and got ready to print about two months back. Not a single paper has been printed, yet!  

Saga2

All activities in a society reflect on some other action. We have difference of opinion at home, in the place of work. We bicker with friends and relatives.  So why bicker about what happened in Mumbai. It has been happening since the days of Mahabharata! We rarely see things happening in the Ramayana way. Yudhisthir had to give that famous reply “अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा” to deceive Dronacharaya. When Dronacharya was told that Ashwathama died, he asked Yudhisthir as Yudhisthir always spoke the truth. But अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा meant that he was not sure if it was the human or the elephant of the same name! In short, he also discretely lied! But we have only one in a million  Yudhisthirs, so what more can we expect from our society and from our politicians? 

 

 

 

What is democracy?

Last month’s election in Maharashtra was the first time Jaya, and I missed the voting as we were in Canada at that time. From the results point of view, it looked straight forward. There was an alliance between BJP and Shivsena. It was expected to win by a high margin, but though the win was comfortable, NCP and Congress won more number of seats than expected. There was a lot of horsetrading before the election, and many stalwarts switched over to BJP or Shivsena.  

The usual bickering of sharing the power was expected, but Shivsena wanted their 29-year-old, inexperienced prince to become the chief minister at least for half the period till next elections after five years. Some give and take was expected, but suddenly the alliance reached a stage where both sides became very rigid in their stand. The partnership at present looks as if it will take time to mend if at all, it restores.  

Many times we forget who these politicians are! We treat them as different species; it is mainly because of the methods they use and wealth amassed by the corrupt ones. But like any group of people, not all are the same. The percentage of dishonest people whom we don’t like in this group is more than any regular group. But lately, it has been observed a similar percentage of corrupt people is found in the business domain also. The methods of corruption in both groups are different, but at the end of the day, the corrupt practices are mainly about making money with fewer efforts. If possible, the politicians make money using their influence in the government to push the papers quickly, sometimes tweak the policies or help people to find loopholes so that people can perform illegal things. I am talking about the regular business, not the nasty business of drugs or psychotropic stuff.  

Till the BJP government came into power in 2014, all the illegal ways were taken for granted. Some smart investigative reporters would find a few scams that were taking place. Then these would all go to committees and courts! Things continued as usual. A few of these scams were investigated, but the majority remained in limbo. 

What is politics? I don’t know how to define politics. To me, it is an activity where people with different ideologies and thought processes come together, form a group which is called a party. Then they fight local elections, some graduate to state elections, and in 2019, 552 of these people fought national posts in Loksabha. So, it is a gradual process for most people, but some of these people come in a helicopter and directly get into national politics. These are special people from elite families who are “born” to work at the national level! The process of directly reaching the federal level causes significant issues at some stage. These parties remain democratic only by the constitution but are dynastically run organisations. Some of these people are wealthy people, and nobody knows how they make so much money. Looking at these leaders, other leaders also start looking at ways of making money without doing any work. They know that nobody is going to challenge their ways.  

Over a period, it has been observed that many politicians and business persons are hands in glove! So many times, the main work of politicians, of running the nation efficiently with the help of government servants, is forgotten. Some of the government servants join hands with this nexus. The classic method followed by business persons was to have a large number of shell companies to hide the trail of black money. The present government has made an exclusive drive and shut down three lacs shell companies. There were so many such companies, but no one was bothered. Everybody was busy in their own game of making money!  

With such corrupt ways, it was a real surprise that India grew very fast during the last twenty years. That means the Indian economy was large, but a sizable percentage of the money in the system was black money i.e. in the parallel economy. The black money is used for business within the country, but it also encourages nefarious practices! Black money cannot come into the formal banking system. Hence banking systems get stretched.  

Such things are difficult in non-democratic countries like China and Russia. In such countries, only a selected group of people can do whatever they want. Under such system, China has shown tremendous growth but without checks and balances. Now the effect of not having checks and balances are coming out, and the Chinese economy is also showing a tremendous downturn.  

Democracy is a sound system where people have freedom, but there are checks and balances too! India did not implement the checks and balances properly for many years, and that has caused the political system to become more corrupt.  

The logical conclusion of what is happening in Maharashtra should be re-elections! There should be some method of ensuring that alliances which are declared before elections, must form a government if they win the election. Trying to form a government with coming together of diametrically opposite parties is a mockery of the system. It is an insult to the voters who voted for the alliance and the candidate. A friend told me the other day that he voted for a candidate because he was representing the BJP-Shivsena alliance. In the ordinary course, he would have voted for a candidate from a different party who had proven a track record in social work. An average person like you and me feel cheated because of what is happening in Mumbai. Since the ideologies of the other parties are the opposite, they will make an alliance based on the common minimum program. Should the most advanced state in India, Maharashtra, be run on a common minimum program, just because in democracy, things are pretty loosely defined?  

Maharashtra deserves better than this so-called solution of the hotchpotch government. Maharashtra is paying a massive price due to the ego of certain individuals. But to me, it is not only the ego but arrogance. Most of us are hoping that the government will not be allowed to form. Is this the democracy we are looking for? Maharashtra elections for me are comparable with Brexit!

I sincerely hope that no government is formed with presently elected reprentatives. In the next election, those parties who have gone back on words would suffer as people will vote against them.  

My hope is that we have re-elections in April 2020, where we the people will show to these politicians who are the real kingmakers!  

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.

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!

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.

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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.

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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!