India 2020 or 1820?

I am really not sure if our society is in 1820 or 2020!

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                                                                  InternetGenie

Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod, you always look positive and gung ho about Bharat desh; but you seem a bit perturbed after you had a chat with your friend, Vijay,  who came back from China visit, today?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual, Genie kept on talking. Genie said, “I know that Vijay must have shared with you the advances made by China in all fields.” 35 to 40 years back Chinese started a revolution in their lives, overcoming the setbacks from Mao regime. Ok, I saw you smirk and I know what you are going to say. They have dictatorship that is why they can do whatever they want! Give 30 % discount to “No Democracy” but still how far ahead are they? Look at their new cities, look at their production volumes? In car production they have gone way ahead of the US also! So many international companies get their products manufactured in China for different reasons. Cost, productivity and quality! When they get these benefits, it is obvious that people will queue up to get things manufactured in China. Chinese think out of the box. They have a major manufacturing set up in north west China. Shipping products from there to harbours on the east coast, putting them in containers and sending them to Europe by ship, was 45 days cycle. They got the rail tracks ready in north west China to connect to Russian train system and now they ship the products by train to Europe in 15 days!

Pramod, you look gloomy. I know that you are not sure if we in India live in 1820 in mind, though we will be reaching 2020 in a couple of years! Yes, we are doing some great things like ISRO but you fail to understand why can’t we follow simple things like crossing roads on zebra crossings; sometimes it looks as if cattle is moving in the field in random direction but these are roads in cities and these are humans and not cattle! It is no rocket science, oh but we do very well in Rocket Science! We run excellent Metro Services in many cities but what happens on local trains and especially long-distance trains? We have dirty bedsheets in sleeper coaches, unclean toilets and so on. We are doing good in IT field and looks like we will go up the value chain going into AI and deep learning. But we can’t find solution to smog in Northern India. The smog levels reached are ten times the normal value, but we are collectively sleeping! Pramod, I know Beijing also faces similar problem, but they are at least trying to do something about it and not sleeping over it!

In our Metro ecosystem behavior of Indians is very disciplined and the system remains very clean all the time! Just outside the system we are back to “Old Dilli” ways. Old Dilli is a thought process. चलता है is our motto! This means whatever rubbish is done we accept it with an attitude, “It’s ok! चलता है.” Unless we come out of this attitude we will remain in 1820! We have Urinals on expressways just after every toll station. But people will relieve themselves on the wall of the Urinal but from outside. Local governments ear mark zones for hawkers, but we will start hawking where ever it is suitable to us. On footpaths, railway foot bridges! But with चलता है attitude we regularly buy stuff from these hawkers and accept situation as if we are still in 1820! Local Governments make anti encroachments drives, within a couple of hours or days, hawkers occupy the same space and it is business as usual. We do not have time to breathe because of busy life but we will spend hours together to follow some age-old traditions under the garb of religion.

Pramod, what is the solution to this? How do you think Indians can be physically as well as mentally be in 2020? Do you at least  see some progress in that direction! Sri Lankan cricket team captain made a statement that their teams performance is not up to the mark because of some “Spirits” are working against them! Are you sure Pramod that these things are not discussed in Indian Cricket team meetings? At least from what is written in newspaper, Indian skipper is a 2020 guy who totally believes in training, discipline, performance and positive attitude! This probably helps Indian team to open the bottle of “Spirit”, Champagne, after most of the matches, these days!

Pramod, I want your reply on this, as I know you have strong views! I also know that your friend Vijay is like you! He also is in gloom after visits to other countries  but is a similarly positive guy like you and wants to work harder again! Pramod tried his best not to talk but Genie hustled him again with the same questions! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, look at the positive side. All this discussion shows us that there is so much to do! For next many many years, we all have lots of work to do! I am sure we will do it, the way we are doing with ISRO, Metros, IT “

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod my gut feeling tells me that most work we will be required do will be on Indian Mentality!”

 

Has living in India become easier?  

Ease of use on day to day basis for common man has increased by 60 points!

I read a news item in newspaper that India has jumped 30 places in “Ease of Doing Business” ranking, given by world bank. (Later our PM also said that general living has become easier in India.) These experts have used pre-defined methodology; the same methodology is used all over the world. This indicates India’s ranking is compared with world’s other nations.

This made me think of us common people. Has our life changed? Has “Ease of doing things” changed for us on day to day basis? I am not talking of general infrastructure and holiday destinations and that kind of things. It is day to day mundane things that we are required to do. It is like shopping, making bill payments, availability of services, standing in queues. It is also about travelling from place A to place B which is part of our daily things that we do.

I am talking about city dwellers who have access to wi fi,  and internet on cell phone.  This infrastructure has improved a lot during last five years. Proliferation of cell phones is really deep. This has made life easy for the people, who have adapted to the use of this technology, irrespective of their location. Payment procedure of regular monthly bills like cell phone, electricity, insurance policy premium has become extremely simple. These are done by card, net banking or even simpler “standing instructions”. New system of wallets is also spreading quite fast. But how many of us have really started taking advantage of this change? I still see many people going physically, to pay these bills, standing in queue! Reason no belief in the system! Systems are available and they are making things easier. More people should be encouraged to use such systems.

Daily transportation is one of the biggest hassles in daily life! In this aspect, things are definitely improving. Main difference is due introduction of Metros in a big way, in many large cities. Metros definitely ensure that people travel from place A to place B in world class comfort and in shortest possible time. Just to give an example in city of Pune, going from Pimpri to Mandi area in peak hours takes about 75 to ninety minutes. After Metro is introduced, this will be reduced to 30 minutes! This one world class solution does overcome daily hassles, reduces traffic on road. Metro is operational in Kolkata for a long time, Delhi was the second city and now in coming three to five years 10 to 15 cities will have Metro. Another advantage of Metro is world class system has changed the mindset of people in public, they are quite disciplined while using the Metros. Of course, they go back to original ways, once they are out of Metro concourse! But I am sure slowly this conduct will improve outside Metro system too!

Abundance of various items, has definitely improved. Vegetables, fruits, groceries, milk, grain, medicines, and what have you, it is available in abundance! Days of shortage have simply gone. Availability of services of technicians like electricians, plumbers are easily found through yellow pages!

During 90’s when people’s aspirations started increasing, getting admissions to schools, colleges and professional courses became very tough. But since last few years seats in many courses and school/colleges remain vacant. This indicates that supply has become much more than demand.

In Banking system, there is marked difference due to technology. Processing of documents has become easier and many types of personal loans are available quite quickly provided all documents are ready. In fact, some banks offer pre -sanctioned loans to some elite customers. ATM’s have made access to cash simple.

Since India is huge democracy many things take time to happen. But they happen. Income levels have gone up and easiest indication of this is the sale of two wheelers in India. India has become the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Ok this creates its own problems. But expressways are coming up all over and authorities are trying to improve infrastructure to the best of their abilities.

I will share with you a very efficient system created by Pune Municipal Corporation. This is about their yearly property bill. They send the property bill details by SMS or text message. On clicking the link in the message, I was taken directly to their site with all required details filled in! They only showed a button “Pay”; when clicked it asked the normal payment options and  I paid the tax. Time taken 1 minute. Very similar system is created by vehicle insurance companies; insurance renewal time required is similar. Flipkart, Amazon and all such companies have made doing daily purchases very simple. Don’t forget ease of buying Bus tickets, Air and Train tickets.

Why people do not use the systems is due to apprehensions, lack of knowledge and simply because they have techno phobia. I know of an eighty-year-old lady who decided that she wanted to use all the modern payment systems and she has done the switch in about one month!

Most important change for business community is the GST! This one change has made things very simple. There were many taxes before GST and doing business was a nightmare to which we were used to! But talking to many factory owners, people from trading community, they find things much simpler than before!

Of course, there are minuses! Main issue is confrontational politics, there are naysayers like “development experts” whom I call zolawallas! There are people who are really upset because of Government drive against parallel economy! According to me there is an improvement of 60 points and not 30 points in our day to day lives.

Movies, a complex Passion!

I try to take advantage of international flights by watching old time classic movies. Sometime back I had watched “Casablanca”. It was a Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman movie made in 1942! Recently I watched “Vertigo” by the Alfred Hitchcock produced in 1958 with James Stewart and Kim Novak. This movie had a special fascination for me along with North by Northwest! In my childhood I lived behind Metro Theater in Mumbai and used to hear some discussion by my elder brother Shrikant about such movies but naturally never understood anything. My favourite movies in those days were of course “Tom & Jerry Cartoons” and “Seven brides for seven bothers”.

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After coming home, I was checking details about Vertigo and realized that movie did not fare so well, commercially, at least initially. This reminded me of my one of the all-time favourite Hindi movies, Teesari Kasam (1966), (Third Vow) Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman starrer!. (There is one more all-time favourite that is “Guide”; it is not a coincidence that both movies have Waheeda as the lead actress!) Teesari Kasam also did not fare well in the initial showing. In fact initially it did so badly that its producer Shailendra died due to shock. Later on it did fairly well at the box office and went on winning accolades for the movie. Raj Kapoor and Waheeda’s performances were highly appreciated. In case of Vertigo too the movie got accolades later and is known to be within top movies made by Hitchcock.

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I also liked the plot and story of both the movies which I want to share with you. For Vertigo it was a plot with finesse and for Tessari Kasam it was a simple story! Movie making is a passion. People have known to have lost all their money making a particular movie but it never stopped them from making that particular movie. Many of these people had taken huge loans against their only assets at that time, their homes. Wrong fall of dice would have wiped them out but passion has no bounds! Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker was his passion; but it bombed at the initial showing. He was almost on the verge of bankruptcy.

As movies these two are in different genre. Teesari Kasam is movie based on story in Bihar hinterland with rustic village surroundings.   Vertigo is a Hitchcock suspense movie based in San Francisco. Both the movies hold our attention till end.

In Teesari Kasam, Hiraman a bullock cart driver, has taken two Vows (Kasam in Hindi hence the name Teesari Kasam). He is once caught carrying illegal goods in the cart hence takes first vow, never to carry illegal goods ever! Then he ferried bamboos once to timber market. The load upset the horses of two gentlemen on the road. They beat him badly. So he takes his second vow never to carry bamboos in the cart.

In Vertigo, in the first sequence, James Stewart, as detective Scotty Fergusson, loses a colleague in a roof top chase due to fear of heights or vertigo! He tries to overcome this fear later in many ways, unsuccessfully. So he retires from Police force. His ex-fiancé and friend tells him that only similar experience will help him overcome the fear. An acquaintance of his, Gavin Elster, hires Scotty to help him find about awkward behavior his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) and claiming that she is in some sort of danger. Scotty agrees reluctantly.

In Tessari Kasam Hiraman is asked to carry a Nautanki dancer, Hirabai, to another village. On the way Hiraman sings songs to pass time and tells Hirabai story of legend Mahua. Hirabai is mesmerized by innocence and simplicity of Hirman. Hiraman thinks Hirabai is an angel of purity. On reaching destination, Hirabai arranges free passes for Hiraman, then he joins the group of cart drivers. As days pass bond between them becomes strong.

In Vertigo Scotty follows Madeleine to various places and finds different mysterious patterns. She buys a specific bouquet and goes to a hundred year old grave of a lady Carlotta. Then she goes to a museum and sits in front of portrait of Carlotta. In another sequence she mysteriously goes to a hotel; when Scotty follows her, he can’t find her! Mystery grows. Then Madeleine jumps of in San Francisco bay and Scotty saves her. One thing leads to another and they fall in love. One day he takes her to Carlotta’s 100 year old mission home to see if he can find any connection. Madeleine suddenly rushes up the stairs in the church tower; because of acrophobia, Scotty does not follow her and she jumps to death through a window. Death is declared as suicide. Scotty goes into depression. But was it suicide, of course not! Hitchcock style comes into play. Judie a girl from Kansas, same in looks as Madeleine, comes into picture. Scotty sees her after he is released from the sanatorium. He meets Judie and  requests her to join him for dinner. Later on they keep on meeting. At one stage Judie writes a letter to Scotty explaining the deceit in which she had taken part, to earn money from Elster; Elster wanted to murder his wife with the help of Judie! She tears it off the letter as she has started loving Scotty.

In Tessari Kasam Hiraman is shocked when he watches Nautanki; people at the theatre treat Hirabai as a prostitute. Hiraman fights with others over Hirabai; she tries to make him understand reality of life. He tells her to leave this life but she refuses and explains to him her life’s secret. Hiraman is frustrated and leaves the village. This time he takes the Teesari Kasam or third Vow “Never to carry any dancer from Nautanki Company in his cart, ever! Wow, what a simpleton, what naivety! But still a captivating film with beautiful songs and Nautanki type of dances by Waheeda! 

In Vertigo Scotty has not forgotten Madeleine and forces Judie to wear same clothes as were worn by Madeleine. He changes her hair style to be same as that of Madeleine. Now viewer cannot make out the difference between Judie and Madeleine! Naturally it’s a double role played by vivacious Kim Novak! Pendant worn by Judie is the same which was adorned by Madeleine when she died! Detective in Scotty overcomes lover in Scotty! He starts thinking what could this be? His final aim is to overcome his vertigo problem with help of his Love! He takes her to the same church and wants to climb the tower. Judie becomes jittery as she feels that the truth regarding murder will come out! They reach the top of the tower and Scotty has overcome his vertigo; though he is doubtful about Judie, he still loves her and embraces her! Suddenly the trap door opens up and a Nun comes out! Judie is scared and takes a few steps back and falls through the same window to death.

Wow, what breath-taking suspense! Typical Hitchcock movie!

What was the mystery? Elster with the help of Judie creates a fictitious story about Madeleine behaving in a different way. When Scotty is following Madeleine, he is actually following Judie dressed as Madeleine! When Judie runs to the top of tower, Estel is already there with real Madeleine and the moment Judie reaches them, Estel throws Madeleine from the Window! Scotty of course cannot reach that height because of vertigo and gets deceived!

Friends I have written this blog in different genre and hope that you guys appreciate the novelty that I am trying to bring out! Cheers!

Longevity bane or boon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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