Bucket List!

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A bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. Your first question would be why the hell Pramod is talking about death. But the usage of this term has been quite recent. Hitting the bucket is the colloquial term for dying. It is not about death. But do not forget that bucket list need not be life long. You can make short term bucket lists a few times a year. Items could be “I will buy a pair Rayban goggles this month”, or “I am going to meet my long lost friend Deepak in next two months”. Do not forget that these shortlists are also going to give us great joy! My item was keeping a ponytail. If I had done it otherwise, people would have said, “Pramod has gone senile”! I used Corona situation to fulfil my wish!

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-09 at 08.47.50

Typical lists have different items on each individuals’ list. From visiting the standard places like Tajmahal, Niagara falls, Eiffel towers and so on, the list will be endless. See the Wall of China, Visit Machu Pichhu, Meet Princess Diana or Marilyn Monroe are some other favourite items (Ladies let me know your preferences). Watch a cricket match at MCG in Melbourne with the capacity crowd was on my list- I did it in March 2015.

But the first half of the year 2020 has made a drastic change in the thinking of people. In my case, it is a dramatic change. I feel as if I have achieved Nirvana of sorts! Thanks to Coronavirus. It appears that this situation will continue for three to six months more. Have I been a person who prefers to be home-bound? Marathi term for this is घरकोंबडा! Not really. We always used to go out, meet friends, see movies when possible, travel. Going to restaurants, inviting friends at home was our regular routine. Post 22nd March, everything has stopped.

I live in an eleven-story condo tower and live on the 7th floor. All my windows and the balcony face the west. In summer times, the harsh sun is so bright that we were forced to put sunscreens which blocked the light a hundred per cent. With this change, the weather inside is controlled, we do not need an AC. It is so dark within the room, we need to put on the light if we have to do some chore. But this is only a small irritant. The benefits of west-facing home, on the 7th floor with an unblocked view, for miles together, has its advantages. The lockdown brought out the benefits to the fore. What have I been missing?

Even before this lockdown, we sometimes had our cuppa early morning with a beautiful breeze, fresh directly from the hills. It is invigorating, to say the least! Yes, the fog or smog sometimes made the view hazy. I have been enjoying the misty Pune rains of the monsoon sitting there. But never had I even thought of that I would be looking forward to being in the balcony every day! I am there, every day in the evening for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Watching the movies created by nature. With the monsoon in the air, there are clouds. Clouds, in many shades of grey- from light grey to ominous grey in different formations, are seen every day. Even at this age, the real dark ones bring a tinge of fear in mind! But since Pune does not get high rainfall, these clouds hit the hills in around water bodies around Pune to quell their fury! The fascinating canvas that gets unrolled every day, with the sun playing hide and seek, is to be seen to be believed. The holi of colours is played every day! From bright gold to enchanting red, from dark grey to emerald blue the combinations will beat the colour shades offered by computers, hollow.

                                             (Oneplus 6T cell phone Camera)

A couple of weeks into lockdown, we started hearing chanting and cooing of birds loud and clear! Unfortunately, as I am on the 7th floor, even the tall trees are well below my line of sight. So I am not able to see any of the birds unless they are flying. I do see some parrots and pigeons resting on the terraces of the buildings nearby with a few squirrels thrown in. I am sure they were infrequently seen even before lockdown, but I never made it a point to watch them. Honestly, in my lifestyle before and after lockdown, there is only 10 to 15 per cent change. Post “almost retired” status we went out much less compared to working days. But it is the mindset change that has made the difference.

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                                                     Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

I take advantage of my being at the vantage point to see nature regularly. I cursorily looked at Sinhgad, a Shivaji time fort, about twenty km from home. The pollution, the smog was simply missing, and I could clearly see the fort. I started taking photographs of Sinhgad as many times as possible. The clarity is stunning! On one day Sinhgad was looking hazy, and the lockdown was just easing out. I got worried and shared with Jaya that the beautiful site will now be eaten up by the pollution. But the next day, things were “normal”! I could take photographs of Sinhgad. I had forgotten that fog is a normal phenomenon of nature; I had simply concluded that it was lost to pollution!

My favourite example of such adversities is based on how to take advantage of the difficulty. Sachin Tendulkar in a match versus Pakistan in South Africa was facing Shoib Akhtar at his best. He was fast and furious on that day and bowled a nasty bouncer to Sachin. He simply raised his bat at the last moment and slashed hard as the ball was moving at high speed and an awkward bounce. Next moment the ball was in the stands travelling ten rows over the spectators.

The lockdown has been thrown at us by the destiny, hit it for a six. Do not get into “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!” You have not suddenly become older by ten years. Our generation has been lucky that many diversions onscreen in different formats are available to us at our fingertips. The important thing is there is no one to limit our screen time. In fact, our family and friends are worried if you are not able to use technology to your benefit! Play that computer game, see the old Hitchcock movie Psycho! See the brand new Swara Bhasker serial Rasbhari! You will be able to watch free webinars ad nauseam. See those old dramas or one-act plays which you missed in your busy schedule and chat with friends. Look for your seventy-year-old ex-flame and see what she is up to. In fact, you will not get time to say “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!”

 

                                                     Entrance Beach, Australia

                                                Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

With reset of mind due to lockdown, my thinking about bucket list has changed. I would rather be with nature. Trees, clouds, mountains, birds and the beasts would enchant me more, and I would rather be with rivers and ocean! The idea has been in mind since I visited the Entrance beach in Australia. It was a majestic, serene and enchanting beach on the Pacific ocean. Over a period, many of our travels included nature rather than large cities. Lockdown has converted me. I am getting to tick mark some portions of the bucket list sitting at home!

Do not worry about me! I am not balcony bound. I am also into video calling and doing different things. With my engineering college groups, I have started to interview friends who have achieved many things in life. These interviews keep me busy in logistics, coordination and other stuff. Plus of course, family video calls are there. Life is home-bound but busy! It is about resetting your mindset as per the situation. One of the significant change could be to modify your bucket list! Taking photographs regularly was one of them!

To Hell with China- the confused us!

OUR CHINA BEATERS!

Corona, Ladakh and other things got every Indians’ muscles flexing! Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian! The slogans are seen everywhere in discussions, social media and wherever we look. Great idea! But there is a cynical joke. A lot of posters, Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian are seen everywhere- the only problem is they were printed and imported from China because these were good quality and inexpensive.

Import and export between nations is not an emotional decision, but such decisions are based on hard bargaining to try and see that both the sides are benefitted- and it needs to be a win-win situation. Import and export values between any two countries are never the same. In the case of China, the import from China is always higher than the export to China for most countries. Why has this happened? China has ensured that the industry grew phenomenally. They maintained quality and lower price than most of the nations in the world. They found efficient ways of sending goods to Europe by using the rail network of Russia. That reduced the transit time by almost 30 days.

Can any nation beat China in their own game? No, it is not easy, and there are other reasons like a dictatorship, lax labour laws and so on. In China, businesses rarely have to face legal hurdles. In democracies, legal issues can really strangle the industry. But is it doable at all to beat China in their own game? Yes, it is feasible, and this “miracle” has been performed by a sector in India. But before this, let me share thoughts of my friend Arvind on the subject.

Nobody, citizens, government, companies or anyone else can stop using, buying Chinese products overnight. The government, unless it officially declares war, can not stop or cancel orders or participation in tenders. It takes time for companies to develop alternative sources. The alternative sources will be costlier since China uses a dumping strategy. Being a totalitarian government, it has many advantages as for labour, company and other laws are concerned.

Atmnirbhar Bharat will be successful only if we as citizens of this country are ready to pay more for some products, initially. Businesses should put the nation first policy too, and the government, bureaucracy and politicians should not manipulate things for pushing their individual interests. Only competent leadership can change the future of the nation.

The link below are views of Rajeev Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto and Suzuki India, Chairman Mr. Bhargava. They have spoken pragmatically about China.

https://www.news18.com/news/auto/maruti-suzuki-bajaj-resist-boycott-china-movement-says-chinese-parts-necessary-for-production-2670601.html

I am talking about the Motorcycle industry in India. Motorcycle industry jointly has reached the top position in the world in numbers. In the early part of this century, Chinese companies started pushing their motorcycles in India. The “experts” began writing epitaphs of Indian Motorcycle companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS. But these companies were made of sterner stuff. They got their act together, pulled up their socks. And lo! Within a couple of years, the Chinese bikes were thrown out from Indian markets by customers and not by tariffs and jingoism by Deshbhakts. What did they do? They did the right things.

Those were days when IT companies were on a high, after the success of Y2K in the global market. They started hiring engineering talent from IIT’s, NIT’s and all good institutes. The kids wanted to do only coding in life, engineering career was a no-no. Here was what Bajaj tried. They used to get an opportunity for campus interviews on 7th or 8th day. One year they decided to hire people on zero-day. They told the institutes that they would pay three times the salary that IT companies paid. They got the zero-day slot, but to their surprise, very very few students wanted to join even at such a high salary. All wanted to jump the IT bandwagon. Bajaj reversed their strategy and went to the next level of schools. Changed interview language to Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil when needed. They got the hidden gems as these kids were good but had a language issue. Rest as they say is history.

Another example of Bajaj. Today they export about 1.8 million bikes a year, their primary market being Africa. In Africa, bikes are used as a taxi or a tempo. Bajaj has earned a name there. Before Bajaj, there were Japanese bikes which were superb but expensive. They had a limited market. The Chinese bikes were sent to Africa in an individual box, and they were assembled by local mechanics and sold. Bajaj made better bikes and despatched them in assembled condition, ready to use. They priced them between the Chinese and Japanese bikes. They have ultimately captured the market and running a highly profitable operation.

So, friends, it is doable. What you need is the will to fight, gauge the market correctly. Besides this, the Motor Cycle industry had the advantage of a large Indian market for Motorcycles. The local market helped them volume, which has proved beneficial.

Coming back to the slogan to hell with the Chinese products. If you look at Chinese cars, they are not so competitive in the world market, yet. But since many global multinationals went to China- Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota- all the named companies and others have a significant presence in China. Chinese manufacture seven to eight times the cars that we manufacture in India. In India, we simply do not have a market for more cars. Plus we do not have the infrastructure of roads and pollution control. With smaller numbers, we cannot compete with Chinese in four-wheelers. Mind you, China is still not able to sell “Chinese Branded” cars in the global market. But these vast volumes helped China to create a reliable components industry; the Indian industrial buyers have fallen into China trap due to low price. Many international component companies like Aisin, Denso, Conti, Valeo started China operations in a big way. Corona pandemic exposed the errors made by Industrial buyers. I have discussed this with many senior friends in the industry. The corrective measures have already begun, and over a period, China dependence will come down. It takes time to develop components suitable for your use.

It is impossible to boycott China immediately. It will take at least five years of focused efforts. In automotive products, direct import from China is about 10%. However, many tier two suppliers of the vendors from ASEAN countries import quite a lot from China. It will take time to develop ‘non-Chinese’ tier-two suppliers.

The government can discretely ensure that items like Ganesh Idols, Agarbatti, Patang Manja and such stuff does not get imported from China. These items can not be put on the banned list. So the government can talk to the business community and trade groups to make sure that “Indian” items are not imported. For such things, how do you know that they are cheaper? These are imported simply because trade margins are high. There could be hundreds of such items which can be easily “banned.” This is also doable. When Malaysia started behaving strangely with India, Indian government discretely talked to import organising bodies. Within three months the majority purchase of palm oil was switched over to Indonesia.

The main thrust of India should be to push local manufacture of good quality cell phones, tvs and such things in India. Special efforts will have to be taken. Years back, there was a story of the US pushing the Japanese to allow them to sell the US-made cars in Japan. It was declared during the visit of the US president to Japan, that the market is now open. When the delegation went back to the US and talked to car manufacturers, they realised that the manufacturers would take at least three to four years to manufacture Japan-specific, right-hand drive cars.

So it is good to let out steam, but there is no point in shooting the bullet in your foot! Another point is to find out if banning Chinese goods going to damage Chinese trade more or hit the Indian manufacturing capability? The right way would be do it over a period!

Yours Faithfully!

My friend Chandu sent me the story given below. It made me think and think deep. It was about Trust Vs Faith. Some of you may think that both are the same; it is only the semantics. But I do not believe it is merely semantics.

Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.

I somehow used to think that Trust and Faith are two similar words, but as I was pondering about the difference, I realised the subtle and not so subtle difference in these two words. Chandu’s story helped me conclude.

A person started to walk on a rope tied between two tall towers, and he was ambling, balancing with a long stick in his hands. He had his son sitting on his shoulders.

All people on the ground were watching him in bated breath and were very tense. When he slowly reached the second tower, everyone clapped, whistled and welcomed him. They shook hands and took selfies.

He asked the crowd “do you all think I can walk back on the same rope now from this side to that side?”

The crowd shouted in one voice “Yes, Yes, you can..”

Do you trust me, he asked? They said yes, yes, we are ready to bet on you.

He said okay, can anyone of you give your child to sit on my shoulder; I will take the child to the other side safely

There was a stunned silence. Everyone became quiet.

Belief or faith is different. Trust is different. For Trust, you need to surrender totally.

It is what we lack towards God in today’s world. We approach HIM selectively.

We believe in Almighty. But do we trust HIM?

The image above is one I found very interesting. To me, it indicated that you start trusting at some stage; to me, Trust is the next stage of belief/faith. In the image, you see a man balancing himself to go from one end to the other, walking on the thin rope. But the caption written on the picture gives an important message. It says, “A day will come when the option to move either forward or backward, is not an option in a typical case. At that stage, one has to become a “डोंबारी,”- a Marathi word for an acrobat! These acrobats are not professional acrobats, but the whole family, including kids, perform acrobatic stunts, on streets; they have no option. They perform these acts to earn their living.

                                                             डोंबारी Video!

In everybody’s life at some stage, we have to become a “डोंबारी.” Sometimes our options are limited or tight. We need to make decisions, whether we like it or not. Our general tendency is to try and maintain the status quo. But is it only about life and death? Many times yes, but it is not a necessary condition. There are some personal situations, some business situations; there could be some public matters which may force you to make a decision.

Mother and the child relationship is one that is based on trust all the way. The mother carries the child in her womb for nine months, and no relationship in this world could be closer. For the mother, the child always comes first at every stage. We know the stories where mothers have fed their children by remaining with an empty stomach. The sacrifices mothers make, reach new heights in different situations. In every other relationship, the first stage is always faith, and from faith comes the trust.


In work, the first such relationship that comes to mind is that of the trapeze artists. Trapeze artists work in circuses. They swing and perform various acrobatics usually performed by more than one person; sometimes, it is a group activity. The artists swing high in the circus tent with a safety net below. Some outdoor performers use water body in place of the safety net. These performances are high risk, and when done a team event, it is based totally on trust. Once that full trust is formed, the performance of the group reaches the peak.

I want to use the term Parachute Packers as a Metaphor. When people go on missions in aeroplanes, or they go for para jumping, someone packs a parachute for them, correctly. It is a job of that safety person. But it is the trust we show in these Parachute Packers that is important.

Similarly, there are Parachute packers in our life. We have friends, family and others who may not be close to you on a day to day basis. These persons or group of people are just there behind you, only if needed. How does this happen? What makes people think differently than others? Is it the love between two humans, not necessarily equals? Is it inborn in the people? In an ordinary course, your parents, siblings, close relatives and friends are expected to be such people, but there have been instances when this group of people have remained spectators. Your parachute packer, lurking in the background, raises the hand! 

Do we work on creating such a support system? Is such support quid pro quo? No, it is not quid pro quo! Such people are simply born that way. Like mothers, these people also pack your parachute because they just want to do it! Who does not need parachute packers in their lives? I feel that all of us need such people. It is because money can’t buy everything. There are some situations where you may have the financial wherewithal, but that does not get the support you are looking for; you may be in two minds about the decision to be taken in a tough situation. You may feel lost in a situation; parachute packers are there for you in the background. You go to them, and they will help you. Or maybe sometimes they will come to help you without your calling them. 

I am talking of those who support others on their own because they just want to do so. I will share with you a story about a professional. The professional was a smart professional in the technical marketing field. He had excelled in his job, and everything looked hunky-dory, from a distance. One day he went to meet a friend of his. They were good friends but did not meet regularly. Our man told his friend, let’s go out somewhere. They went out and settled near a lake; the guy looked very upset and tense. He said, “Please help me; I have an issue with my job.” The problem was that the gentleman had simply started hating his job. He did not have any professional issue, and he was not sure what caused this. He also said that once he felt like committing suicide. The friend talked to him for some time and helped him to decide to quit that job. The friend nursed him back to normalcy. The gentleman took another job and was very happy in his life for the last 30 years. The person who did this is a close friend of mine. I asked him why this friend came to him? He is still not sure, but my friend spent almost three months in nursing that person back to routine; they have met only once after that episode in, 30 years! Parachute Packer?

Why was my friend approached in this situation? My analysis is that my friend is a great listener, and he exuded trust. He is a person with empathy; he is very sharp and can judge things in correct perspective, quickly. And most important is that during this critical phase took special efforts to find time for this person who was in difficulty! Is that description of a Parachute Packer?

There may be a Parachute Packer around, but ultimately you have to become a “डोंबारी,” and take that delicate walk, knowing that you could still fall and hurt yourself.

To me, when human beings come together, they like each other, believe in each other and start having faith in that person. But unless that person becomes your “Go-To” person, you cannot trust him. You trust HIM and your mother!

My definition of a trustworthy person or a “Go-To” person is best described in a poem below.

They came to tell your faults to me,

They named them over one by one;

I laughed aloud when they were done,

I knew them all so well before, —

Oh, they were blind, too blind to see

Your faults had made me love you more.

 

Communication-interesting stories about words! 

Dr Satyanarayan was our Head of the Department when I was studying Metallurgical Engineering; he did his PhD in the UK and was a keen sportsman. He was darling of the students because he understood the student’s side of different issues. Once a few of us went to his office for some concern regarding the sports facilities. One of my friends started speaking in Marathi. After a few moments, I realised that Marathi was not the Doctor’s mother tongue! So, I said, “Sir, I hope you understand Marathi!” In his typical way, he smiled and said, “At least I don’t misunderstand! 

I have read that many of the problems in the world are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of communication. My experience over a period has told me that most of the issues get resolved if there is F to F meeting (face to face). In the last couple of decades, many buzz words have come into our communications. U gt wat I mn (oh that is the latest language of messages- translation- You get what I mean!) Ok is written as K and thank you is written as ty! Now I am probably too old to learn this way of communication, or I am orthodox! I know that the language evolves over a period. Now we don’t say “Thou art”! But the changes that happen are gradual, and they follow the rules. The rules may be different, but they exist. If you want to change English quickly- yes, “U gt wat I mn” is supposed to be the abbreviation of English words.  

Well, people communicate differently. There is a village in Turkey where people interact with each other by whistling. 

Germans lead the people travelling the world over. When you are passing through some woods or in some distant village in Ethiopia, you will suddenly hear the words Guten TagGermans have become the globe trotters of the world.   

And Germans have several words that reflect their love of exploration. They gave us the word wanderlust, which combines the German words “wandern, meaning to wander, and lust, or desire. Its this word that was liked by the English speakers with a yen to see the world, and the English language borrowed it from the German and have taken it as its own. 

But what if our lust for travel causes us a deep yearning pain, an ache that reminds us that we must get out and see the world? What if we’re trapped inside our homes because of some reason like illness, and we feel despair that we simply cannot travel at all? 

Meet the wordfernweh. Marrying the words fern, or distance, and wehe, an ache or sickness, the word can be roughly translated as distance sickening or far woe – a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep. Think of it as the opposite of Heimweh (homesickness). Its an ache many of us have felt, but we didnt have a word to describe it. We do now. 

English has been a language, which is openended and openminded; it absorbs words from different languages. It becomes more vibrant because of this absorption. 

Langar1

Above tweet is shared by Mr Anand Mahindra on Twitter. (You can see the video on Tweeter) It shows the Langar run by our Sikh brethren in the Queens Village, New York. Fiftyfive volunteers are going to cook and supply thirty thousand plus meals.  

Langar (kitchen), is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian and sometimes vegan. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.  Jaya and I have eaten Langar food, years back, at the Golden temple.

The word Langar is already in the English language; it is a unique service provided by the Sikhs, the world over. I know many surgeons, bankers, senior officers and many luminaries who work at Langars when they get a chance to do so. The work they perform includes cooking, cleaning utensils and sweeping floor; in short, it is any work that is essential to run the Langar. All these luminaries do this work with humility. They think that all the people are the same in front of God. Why not call all such kitchens Langar in future?  

Many words from Indian language are absorbed in English. Another such word is Juggernaut.  

Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, mainly worshipped at the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha where during Rath Yatra festival thousands of devotees pull three temple carts some 14m (45 feet) tall, weighing hundreds of tons through the streets. These carts seat three statues of the deities meant to be two brothers and their sister for a ‘stroll’ outside after the ritual worship session. They are fed by thousands and thousands of worshipers with holy food as if the icons were living. Early European visitors witnessed these festivals and returned with—possibly doubtful—reports of religious fanatics committing suicide by throwing themselves under the wheels of the carts. So, the word became a metaphor for something immense and unstoppable because of institutional or physical inertia; or impending catastrophe that is foreseeable yet virtually unavoidable because of such inertia. 

Pyjama is another word that has come from the Hindi language into English. It is a set of loose-fitting sleeping clothes, consisting of jacket and trousersthe pajama spelling is used in North America. The word entered English in the 19th century. It derives from the Hindi word payjamah, meaning leg (pay) and clothing (jamah). 

Punch (An iced mixed drink usually containing alcohol and prepared for multiple servings; typically served in a punch bowl). Origin of the drink (named as paantsch) that was originally made with five (derived from paanch (five) in Urdu/Hindi) ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. 

The last one but an interesting one is Baniya, spelt in English as Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of a person is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages. 

To me, Juggernaut, Dubash in Madras, Punch were big surprises. I have a friend Dubhashi who is a Maharashtrian, but I never imagined the word could have evolved with this difference. Punch is another such word. I assumed that its evolution would be from the meaning, punching someone. So, when you sip the potion, you get a kick or a punch!  

Words and their evolution are a big subject. I will surely come back on the subject. In the meanwhile, please share with me some such words that you might have come across. 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2020!

The favourite blogs, yours and mine!  

Happy new year to all of you! 

HNY

Retrospection is my favourite activity! WordPress site where I publish my blogs has an excellent statistical tool! I was going through the data, and it gave me surprises! So, I will share with you the information about which blogs have been favourite among the readers. Along with that, I will also share my favourite blogs! Along with the link, I will write briefly, the background behind writing these blogs! In the link, you can see when the blog was published. The blogs I wrote about personalities are of course my favourite, as they were written from the bottom of my heart. For example those on Shashi Kapoor, My Rakhi Sister Pratibha, Maheshbhai, Manas Sen!

Your favourites: 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/ 

The most favourite blog of all my blogs! It is way ahead of others. I attended a family puja. During this event, hymn chanting was going on. One of the middle-aged ladies from the family started swaying to the rhythm of the hymns and the music played! In Marathi/Hindi, it is called “Angat Yene or Devi Ana!” I had always thought it happens in the case of ladies from different strata; I thought that they mostly did it for money! But this lady continued to do it till the music stopped! She was tired after the music stopped and was profusely sweating when the event was over. The top viewership is a surprise to me.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/moving-ranges-of-diabetes/ 

I am not surprised that this one is liked by many. Our health is an essential aspect of our life! So people were interested in the subject. There was a lot of discussion on this blog. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-i/ 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/ 

I published these two blogs on two consecutive daysThese are about the saga in my friend, Prakash Nirgudkar aka, Pakya’s life! I wish nobody has ever to go through the health issues that Prakash had gone through, ever! But at the same time, the events proved the saying, “When going gets tough, the tough get going!” The way Prakash and his family handled the situation, we must read to believe. I am sure not many could have dealt with this situation, the way Nirgudkars did! Prakash was an epitome of patience and courage! The world where people like Prakash are around, can not be evil 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

The above blog is written almost five years back. I had started taking my baby steps in blogging. I was naive at that time! I was more like the Parijatak tree! My thoughts were not very fluent in those days, nor my writing. But now I realise that this one is one of my better blogsIt shows because many people are still reading it! If the world is full of people who are like Parijatak, I would never want to leave this world! It is called Shefalika in Sanskrit and Harsingar in Hindi! We find Parijatak is found in many states in India. There must be reason for it! God wanted to spread its simplicity, fragrance and low cost of ownership! If the humans in India follow these traitsthen our country will be in a perpetual state of bliss. 

My favourites: 

For me, it is tough decision to decide which blogs I like the best! It is like asking a mother which child do you love the most? But when I write something spontaneously, I like it the best! There are many such blogs. I will share a few with you. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/dance-of-civilization/ 

The blog is my most favourite one for a specific reason. From this blog onwards, I started getting a good feel of how to write blogs. For me, this was the changing moment. I used to take my granddaughter Rhea to Vitthal Mandir near our home to play; she was two years old then. I could reach it in a couple of minutes. But with Rhea around, we would take ten to fifteen minutes. I started looking at the world from her eyes and perspective! started looking at the civilisation differently. The blog gave me great satisfaction on completion. I hope you also will like it. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/turn-into-cotton/ 

The blog is based on a poem by Kedarnath Singh. The subject of going back to roots is explained very well in the poemWe do a lot of work in certain areas, and the time comes for us to withdrawIt is not very easy to walk in reverse. In the poem, the poet uses mattress and cotton as perfect metaphors.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/%e0%a4%ad%e0%a4%be%e0%a4%a4%e0%a5%81%e0%a4%95%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%80%e0%a4%9a%e0%a4%be-%e0%a4%96%e0%a5%87%e0%a4%b3-winding-down/ 

The blog is about changing our thought process as we growHumans remain entangled in life and don’t keep away from the life of their children. We must do it. When our time to go from this earth, we anyway have to withdraw. We are automatically removed, whether we like it or not! So, why not get into withdrawal mode step by step? These steps make life smoother for both you and your children!  

 https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/quis-custodiet-ipsos-custodes-who-will-guard-the-guards/ 

The current state of the nation is well-explained by using lyrics of the famous Hindi song, “Chingari Koi Bhadke”! It talks about the guards who are supposed to guard us! But who will guard the guards, if they don’t do what they are supposed to do! 

Friends, as usual, please share your comments.  From my archive list on the blog page, you can see the list of blogs. Let me know which blogs are your favourites.  

What is my new year resolution? As usual no resolution! The world is full of good, bad and the ugly. But I think how you see, how you behave, how you react to something shows you the proverbial mirror! I hope the god gives me the strength to see good, behave decently, and react correctly. Bad and ugly part these are days is because of the anonymity of social media. Twitter is a classic example of what I am saying. The messages can be sent very quickly on twitter. I see many bad and ugly things said on twitter about good people like Harsha Bhogale and Anand Mahindra. By doing this, these people are showing bright light on their own face and are exposed.

May God bless all!

 

Should Hindi be imposed?

My friend Shrikant wrote on Facebook a very sensible note about an alleged imposition of Hindi all over India. He is a മരുമകൻ– son in law of Kerala. So, I presume that he is in a better position than me to comment. This led me to read the original statement made by Amit Shah, our home minister on the subject. The gist of what he said is in the statement below. 

Mr Shah said, Hindi is spoken by most of the people and can unite the whole country. He said efforts would be made to expand Hindi to different parts of the country but not at the cost of other languages. Shah later also said that the foreign language English is predominant in India, so instead why not Hindi?  

I have not understood the controversy in the statement. Shah has not said that it should be promoted at the cost of the regional languages, anywhere in the statement.  

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.  

Even 200 years back, India was not known as India as it is recognised today. Till then there were Rajahs, Badshahs who used to run their own kingdom. In those times, travel and communication facilities were inferior. Going from place A to place B would take hours if not days. With these limitationsthe bouquet of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals would remain disconnected with other cultures. The possibility of the merging of cultures must have been within a distance of about 50  to 75 km if the terrain was not steepWith rough terrain, that also would be difficult.  

1947 created India and Pakistan. British had started the railways; road transport had become better than before. Travel had become a bit easier. So some mixing of culture started automatically. If we consider only the state of Maharashtra, people spoke different Marathi in Bombay, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, JalgaonThe spoken languages were distinctly differentLocal dialects also merged with spoken wordsSo when we speak of Marathi, nobody is really sure Marathi of which region we are talking about.  

HIndi1

So why then the emotional reactions about Shah’s statement. In the year 1978, I remember that in Bangalore we had shared a taxi for a tour with two couples, one Tamil and the other Kannada. We communicated with each other in English. What Shah has suggested, instead of English, why not Hindi? It is just a suggestion; does it amount to imposition? Central Government has offices in all the states and Hindi day is celebrated in each office, irrespective of which state it is. What is the point in looking at every statement from a political angle? Are elections the only important aspect in life? Kashmir had even more serious issues due to decisions taken by Britishers. But the government has resolved it in one stroke. Rules and regulations must be enforced but culture? No way, but who is forcing the culture? A statement made at a function was not a policy declaration. 

Culture seeps on its own. Let us look at the airports. A large number of people travel by air these days. For some reason, almost all CISF personnel are Hindi speaking individuals. You got to any airport from Chennai, Kochi, Vizag to Guwahati. They communicate many times in Hindi, but nobody objects to that. Idli-Dosa is the South Indian staple food, but it is almost becoming national food. You are out and want to have some food quickly. You go to Idli-Dosa joint in any city, and you are out in 20 minutes. Even Mcdonalds has not been able to penetrate their market. Has anyone made it compulsory to eat Idli-Dosa? Hindi films is another medium which merges cultures beautifully! When Shah Rukh dances to the tune of Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, the whole of India likes it, not only Tamils or Malayalis 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lungi+dance+video+youtube&view=detail&mid=4AAD8BE78B35602C090E4AAD8BE78B35602C090E&FORM=VIRE 

The so-called resistance to Hindi is in the Sothern States of India. Script for these languages is quite different compared to Hindi. But the alleged differences are historical as India became India for the first time in 1947! For reasons already discussed, these differenopinions were natural, and people thought that Hindi was being imposed on them. I will share one example which indicates the complexity due to the technological changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. The regional languages naturally could not keep pace with technological changes. The onslaught of technology was felt by German, French, Spanish and Chinese too! English has come back strongly and has now almost become a global language, thanks to Computerisation!  

The way languages world over are facing the issue,  our regional languages also faced the same problem. These languages cannot cope up with the technological changes. But WhatsApp and Facebook have facilitated all local languages to be used for communication. Thereby the feared obscurity of the languages is gone. Now people chat in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu; and many other languages. Those who are English educated but know the mother tongue, use the Roman script to communicate in their language! “Barobar ahe na?” (Am I right?) I wrote Marathi in the roman script. So, nobody is going to kill local languages.  

How rich the regional languages will remain, depends on people using itAfter all most people “think” in the mother tongueDon’t worry too much. Tyre repair guy will be mostly Anna from Kerala! Idli-Dosa guy will be from Udupi! Recently I have observed that in the construction business, Bihari workers in Pune are being replaced by those from Bengal. In the hospitality industry, we see many ladies from North-East states working in large cities and even in distant hill stations like Mahabaleshwar. But mind you, most of them are conversant with the local language when their stay is long enough, but they also know Hindi!  

One thing we should never forget that language richness, quality and type changes with era. What was considered classic when I was in school, does not appear so today. The same thing is true with songs and movies too! Yesteryears classics seem a bit naïve today! Today’s generation loves today’s classics better than classics of my school daysThere is nothing wrong in that; tastes changevalue system changes! 

So friends, don’t get excited and start slanging matches; don’t begin your protests. Go and see a Hindi movie or a Tamil movie! You will love it! Nation’s unity is more important, not the regional language! 

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!

Why do I blog?

 

blogI will tell you why I am writing this blog. But let me start with what is a blog. A blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. 

The subject of my blog writing came up recently when we batchmates from COEP met for lunch. The current blog is my 474th blog. A friend asked me, “Hey, Pramod! What is your target for writing blogs? 500 or a thousand or what?” I told him, “Look, I never started writing the blogs with any thoughts. I started fiddling around in 2011. In the first 3 to 4 years, maybe I wrote about fifty blogs. Later on, when I was recuperating from my cancer treatment in 2014, I had time on hand. I was in retrospection mode. I realised that I had started enjoying blog writing. I have written blogs to put together thoughts that come to mind. The idea was never to have any target for the number of blogs I wanted to write. At that time, I would have been most pleased if I had reached a figure of 150.

I started getting more and more time as my professional work tapered off, and now that I am almost retired, blogging keeps me busy and interested. I discuss a subject with someone, I read somewhere, and there you are. I realised that there is a blog lurking behind any event that is happening in our beautiful, and sometimes not so beautiful world. Sometimes, it is personal; at other times, it is general. Sometimes it is about something of national or global nature. But there is no dearth of subjects. I am also lucky that I had Mr Mayekar as my English teacher in school. I have done my education till 11th grade in Marathi medium, but I started learning English from 7th grade. Mayekar sir’s encouragement made me comfortable in English. I am sure he would have been happy to read a few of my blogs. He would always say, “Written words become interesting if you put your heart in your writing.” Blogging is now my passion.  

Now the title, why do I blog? There is a reason why this question has come up. A friend from our WhatsApp group seems to be having some issues with my sharing of the blog on the group. Honestly, I do not have any problem with this, but since he is my batchmate, and known to me, I am a little worried about his questioning. I get a feeling that he has some health issues which creates his reactions that look awkward on the group. Now, some other friends from the group have been writing comments on my writing, but I feel that this friend needs to understand what a blog is and why people write a blog.  

First and foremostblogs are written for commercial purpose to make money, but many people, like me, blog for non-monetary considerations. There are many such reasons. One of them is passion. In India, the blogging culture is yet to spread as it has spread in western countries.  

At its core, writing is a form of communication. It is about recording thoughts on paper and making others think, argue and sometimes even agree with the writing. To that end, writing (just like every other form of communication that has ever existed) improves with practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better writer; it’ll just happen as you do it. And becoming a better writer holds significant benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a résumé, or an anniversary card for your spouse. 

You’ll become a better thinker. Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process encourages you to stop and think deeper. You will delve deeper into the matters of your life and the worldview that shapes them. Unfortunately, at this point, many will choose not to blog (or write at all) based on the faulty reasoning that they “have nothing to say.” But to that line of thinking, I always respond the same way, maybe you just haven’t discovered yet what you have to say. 

You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things. By necessity, blogging requires a filter. It’s simply not possible to write about every event, every thought, and every happening in your life. Instead, blogging is a never-ending process of choosing to articulate the most meaningful events and the most critical ideas; but this a personal perspectiveThe process of selecting a subject helps you develop an eye for important things. And remember that sometimes the most useful things appear to be most mundane—but you’ll see what I mean once you get started. 

Blog writing is either convergent or divergent. By convergent, it means that the subject is vast to start with, but in the end, the discussion narrows down to a tiny part of the issueBy divergent, it means that one starts with a small event like a sentence we read somewhere, and end up writing about a broad subject. A few times, you know what you are going to write in a particular blog, but many times you start writing, and vistas open up as you write!   

What are the positives of blog writing? It allows one to express the passion for one’s thinking. I have written a few blogs about how I handled my cancer treatment. If these blogs have helped to make a difference in the life of a few people, I will be delighted. My blogs bring me in touch with new people and old friends. Many times, there is an intellectual interaction. I can share my knowledge; I have had all my career in the Automotive field. I can share my experience and explain what is expected in future in the automotive field, with others. I come in touch with like-minded people. Consistent blogging helps me improve my writing skills. An essential aspect of blogging is it improves my knowledge. In my recent blog about article 370, my knowledge on the subject was not much. I researched and understood a lot of things on the subject. 

There are many commercial advantages of blogging like an improved business, networking etc. But for me, it is of no use as I don’t blog for those reasons.  

Last but not least, blogging has now become a passion for me. It is an addiction; it is my alcohol, and it is my cigarette. I never look for any subject or topic for writing a blog. But when I read books, or newspapers something clicks within. When I watch TV, some words or sentences hit me, and my mind starts whirring. It settles down only when I put my thoughts on paper! Somehow, I can find time even during my travels, but work-wise now I am pretty much relaxed. 

My friends, I am not looking for numbers, nor have I any target! I will keep on writing until I enjoy it. Famous cartoonist R K Laxman used to publish a cartoon every day in times of India, “You Said It”! He was once asked, “How can you do this day in and day out for so many years?” He said, “There is no dearth of “cartoons” in this world, so it is quite simple.” In the same vein for me, there are so many things happening the world over; my problem sometimes is that some blogs remain pending for days together, like this blog!  

 

 

Cuckoo in the nest!

The expression a “cuckoo in the nest” has a range of meanings. It can mean any person or thing found where it doesn’t belong and is also used to indicate any problem that snowballs, consuming resources needed for other purposes. Also, the term is sometimes used to refer to an illegitimate child.

How did all this begin? It began with the fact the Cuckoo puts its eggs in the nest built by the Crows (in some areas different birds). I was trying to find out scientific reasons for this but could not find any logical explanation. Cuckoo is smarter than a Crow. But I also understand that crows are smart, but they are not smart enough. The Cuckoo puts the eggs in the Crow’s nest when the Crow has gone out.

Cuckoo1

Cuckoo thinks that this fellow Crow is building the nests for him, so why should the Cuckoo waste his time on building the nest. They act like humans and try and conserve their resources. Cuckoo’s eggs hatch early and then Cuckoo’s try and ditch the host’s eggs. The young ones in some cases look similar in the initial phase to that of Crow’s young chicks. They make a lot of cacophonies so that the crow feeds them early and more. It’s like the small babies; the mother gives them milk when they cry. Another theory I have read is that the Cuckoos are vegetarian and they ensure that their young ones get the proteins in the form of bugs from Crows.

All this discussion leads to a question about parasites. A parasite is an organism that lives within or on a host. The host is another organism;  the parasite uses the host’s resources to fuel its life cycle. It uses the host’s resources to maintain itself.  Parasites vary widely. Around 70 per cent are not visible to the human eye, such as the malarial parasite, but some worm parasites can reach over 30 meters in length.  Parasites are not a disease, but they can spread diseases. Different parasites have different effects.

We see parasites in the human race too! My first interaction with human parasites was when I was in engineering college hostels.  We used to be three per room. But in some places, more than three students lived. These students lived in the hostels for a couple of reasons; there was a music lovers’ gang. They would have music sessions on many nights. Sometimes these sessions would continue for a few nights at a stretch. On those days, some would sleepover and continue to do so for weeks. Those were pre-security or terrorism days, so nobody bothered who lived and who went back home. Last year my buddy Nayan and I visited the hostels out of nostalgia and were required to make the gate entry, inform the purpose of visit. We also had to wear a security tag. Then there was another set of parasites, though in small numbers. They were from families with financial constraints and would live in their friend’s room right through the year. Nobody would even discuss such an act (which could be called illegal!), but these folks were parasites out of compulsion and could be called good parasites.

I remember a very distinct system from my school days.  I used to come to Pune sometimes for holidays to be with my grandparents. In those days, there was a system called “Madhukari” (माधुकरी). In my grandparents’ home, a couple of young students used to come for lunch every day. I would not know the basis for choosing such persons for lunch. They were obviously from low-income families and had got themselves attached to different families for getting invited for a meal, on different days of the week! The Marathi term for this is “वार लावुन खाणे.” Technically, these young people were parasites, but they were invited by the family due to an act of charity. It was resource sharing by the family with these unfortunate young people. I shudder to think when I remember this system.

Cuckoos are smarter and many times larger than the hosts. The same analogy can be applied to business organisations who follow a very similar concept. I know about a particular organisation which is massive. They have businesses in many spheres. When they find that an individual small, agile and smart organisation is challenging them in a business area, they compromise with them in that area. But in other business areas, they compete aggressively with the same small organisation. I am not sure whether to call such organisations savvy or smart or aggressive. They conserve their resources in certain areas to compete like hell in the other areas! These large organisations cannot be called parasites, but the act of conserving resources is a part of the definition of parasitism!

There is an old fable of the ugly duckling. It is a story of accidental parasitism. By some accident, a swan egg becomes part of duck eggs family. The eggs get hatched, and the swan gets treated as a duckling. It looks different than the ducklings and is treated like an ugly duckling. The ugly duckling cannot quack like the other ducklings and looks very different than others in the family as the ducklings grow. Once the ugly duckling looks at its image in the water. It realises that it has turned up in to a beautiful swan. We know and hear of such fascinating stories in real life too!

Take the case of Jasprit Bumrah. The Gujarat cricketer has an unconventional bowling action, and when he started playing in IPL for Mumbai Indians, experts gave him a couple of years to be around. They all predicted that he would not be able to sustain his action over a long period. But look now where he is! After five years of Cricket, he is very much around and has become the number one fast bowler in the world. He has taken advantage of his asset/resource of different bowling action and is expected to be around for years to come. Conversion of ugly duckling into a Swan?

Talking of Cuckoos, I always used to wonder about the word Cuckold. Diving a bit into the background, I found something interesting.

From the word Cuckoo, an interesting word Cuckold has been derived. A cuckold is the husband of an adulterous wife. In evolutionary biology, the term is also applied to males who are unwittingly investing parental effort in offspring that are not genetically their own. In the days of when DNA testing was not available, it would be straightforward to get Cuckolded. When the child was conceived, only the mother would know the birth father.

I must share an amusing story. In olden days, when the kings would go on wars, they would use the Chastity belt on their wives. The belt design was such that it would allow the wives to continue with their ablutions, but it prevented them from having sex. A king prepares to go for a war. He gets a chastity belt for his queen. He locks it and hands over the key to his trusted servant so that it could be handed over when the king came back from the war. The king was about five km from the town, and he heard the sound of someone riding the horse. The king is surprised to see his trusted servant; he comes next to the king’s chariot and says, “My Lord! You have given me the wrong key”!

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!

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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?