Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

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One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

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That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

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Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

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I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!

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Why, why, why why?

I know that every why, has no reply, but this question still comes to mind! Some years back, my grandson Suyash had come to Pune, he lives in Seattle. We were chatting in our balcony. He asked me, “Aba, why many of the buildings around us are not painted? Are these very old buildings?” Well, the buildings around us were not very old, these were definitely not dilapidated buildings! They were not more than 15 years old! For fixed assets like condos, or bungalows care has to be taken to maintain them properly. Each property has its own design, the exteriors get spoiled due to rains and heat combination. If you visit these condos from inside, the homes are generally well kept and some are really fancy. People are just not bothered how the outer walls look.  

These are mostly middle class and upper middle-class properties. The income levels are decent, these folks work in offices which are reasonably well maintained. They have their vehicles which are maintained in a reasonably good condition. Then why the apathy towards the exterior? To me this is the last mile concept. We as a society are least bothered about the last mile of everything.  

You look at the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure in general. These are always poorly maintained, at least in some areas. Every year we read the stories of corporations missing their deadlines for cleaning gutters before monsoons! Rains in India are seasonal and generally fall during a specific period. Gutters get filled with muck, leaves and what not, all through the year. In Maharashtra, end of the first week of June is the time for the rains to start. So, our friends should be ready with cleaning by end of May. It is not rocket science. But are we ready? Never. Same story is published every year. First rains in any city causes havoc! There is water logging, flooding, power outages, trees falling! The things which are in our control should be done but they are completed only 95%! Last mile concept? Or who cares concept? Why do we not challenge the authorities as a society? Simple, because we never do these things in our own lives, we are poor in implementing last mile solution.  

We strongly talk about our heritage, our history; we sing songs like मेरे देश की धरती! My great country where streets were paved with Gold, where we saw diamonds and pearls spread on road sides! I have shown above pictures of “Gold, Diamonds and Pearls” spread on our roads. In olden days when everybody lived in villages, there was no concrete, we had plain soil everywhere. Cleaning homes was very simple. You clean your home and push all the dust into adjoining soil. In those days there were no plastics, there was no biodegradable stuff! Dust to dust to Soil! But we are so proud of our heritage that we continue to follow the same practice even today.  

We clean our homes and throw things out of balconies! We water our pots in the balcony and water falls on the cleaned cars every day, as some idiots park them below the balcony. Area below the balcony is the official trash can to throw stuff, pour water indiscriminately. In fact, I come to know every day what my friends staying above us, feed their dog on that day! It can be bread or rice and of course meat once in a while. The pieces fall on my car every day. The title of the blog shows my frustration! Mind you, the condos where I live are high rise modern apartments and are very expensive.  

But money has nothing to do with this last mile concept. Forty years back we lived in an apartment where we had a watchman who lived with his family. They were financially poor. We used to give them, besides the salary, all seconds from our home. Curtains, bed sheets and sometimes food which we could not consume fully. In fact, Jaya used make additional food many times, just to give to them. I still remember their small dwelling. It was a replica of our home as all the things were handed over to them by us. (It is not the story about what we did for them in those days.) Their home used to be spic and span, well-kept and properly maintained. When once asked, the lady said when we have an example in front of us, how can we not follow it?

Just a side story! This family was of two brothers. One child of each of them has become an engineer and currently working in IT industry! It is the will to do well, excel in whatever you do, to keep your surroundings clean, it is will to be part of solution and not a part of the problem, that endures you through the tough times of the last mile. In the game of cricket, it is the ability of crossing the invisible line to score a century, that differentiates the best from the good. It is the strong will to do well, that takes you forward.  

In Mumbai, when many flyovers were built, the situation was bad. Diversion road quality was poor. Let me assure you all these things are doable. When flyovers and Metro were under construction in Delhi, the diversions created were as smooth as the original roads.  In Mumbai there are low lying areas; when it rains, the water logging is bad due to topography. But corporation has installed high capacity pumps, permanently.      

How can one like to live in shabby buildings? There a couple of reasons for this. When there is a group of people living together, there will always be someone who will bother only about money or it is possible that some of them will have financial difficulties. But both these obstacles need to be overcome and can be overcome. It is the will to do it! It is your home after all!  When we water the plants in balcony, we don’t bother if water is carrying the mud with it, on the outside walls of the balcony. Expense for painting a building from outside every 7/ 8 years is not prohibitive.

Similarly, about city infrastructure, it is your own city. We elect representatives to handle the administration. Do they treat it as their own city? Or they are interested only in plundering the resources? Are they proud of their home? I have seen these representatives providing benches for people to rest. These are stainless steel benches, very nicely made. There are bus stops which are nicely designed but do we have buses to match quality of the bus stops? Do we have the discipline in keeping the fleet running? Last mile for the bus system is maintenance of buses and cleanliness of buses. The quality is terrible. 

Friends, in the Hindi Film “Munnabhai MBBS”, the hero sees a sweeper in a hospital sweeping the floor. Hero tells him, “Sir, you are doing an excellent job and you are making all of us proud, please keep doing it”. There are tears of joy in the eyes of the sweeper! Nobody had ever told him this. But when it is our own home, our own city, is there a need to be told by someone? Every day, we bathe and comb to make ourselves presentable, every day we have someone to clean our homes from inside. But how can we forget outside? How can roads, bridges remain in poor state in our own city? Let’s all join hands make it happen! Cheers!  

 

 

Smart Cities or People!

Indian government has started a mission to create large number of smart cities in India. It’s a great initiative and a forward-looking idea. Unless we plan something like this, with a strong initiative from governments, things will never work out. I look forward to see how these things work. I am writing this from the angle of devils’ advocate. Will such initiatives really work in India?

What are the major initiatives planned for smart cities? Water management, waste management, environment, planning of cities, buildings, IT and communications, Security and Safety, Smart power grids, clean energy.  This shows that none of these things were planned in a systematic manner before. Yes, there has been a terrific improvement all over India in all above mentioned areas but hopefully now it will be more systematic.

If we look at the meaning of Smart, it is defined in different ways. If it is about a person – clean, tidy, and well dressed. Or having or showing a quick-witted intelligence. SMART is a best practice framework for setting goals. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. To me this last definition  fits the “Smart Cities Project” perfectly. The aims and goals have been set appropriately by using this definition. But to me a city is made up by its physical assets both new and historical, its water bodies, trees and environment. These to me are tangible things. Its culture, its people. Government agencies can plan for everything else but not for people, their way of thinking, their way of public behaviour, their way of self-discipline when in public or otherwise. These are the intangible assets of a city.

As I live in Pune, I will share whatever little I know about implementation of Smart City project in Pune. I think Pune is doing good in terms transport infrastructure. Newer, better roads and flyovers are planned to reduce congestion. A new ring road is also planned. New international airport is planned at Purandar near Pune. Pune Metro project is expected to be completed in next 3 to 4 years. Experience from all over India says that Metro projects are reasonably successful in every city in India. These projects have successfully made the change in the mindset of people who use them. People behave in disciplined manner while using Metro. Cleanliness is maintained, people don’t cross rail tracks! Why this is happening is for psychoanalysts to find. Why people’s behavior changes by just entering a different transportation system, at least I do not know.

Corporation is still struggling to implement BRTS system, it has serious deficiencies in execution though concept is good. Even after several years and a few trips to foreign jaunts by politicians to “understand” BRTS, best practices are not being implemented or thought of. What about people? The BRTS system has dedicated road lanes reserved for the buses. But Smart people, on their bikes and in their cars,  just barge into those lanes without fear. People are getting killed due to this.

Pune is lucky to have water bodies all around. Unless rains are very deficient, we never have water shortages. Are we smart enough using water correctly, the answer is no. We wash our cars using running water, when we wash clothes by hand, we keep water taps running, under the name of fresh water, we throw away drinking water stored in homes, everyday in the morning. When we water our plants in our balcony’s, we pour excess water that overflows, which in turn is dumped on cars parked under the balconies. My friend Vijay said that we are a dumb society, I slightly disagree. We are a “we care two hoots society”! We can be smart selectively. Corporation has drives, to remove illegal encroachments by hawkers. Even in the days when there were no cell phones, the corporation officers bribed by hawkers, would inform hawkers in advance of the drive and very few hawkers would be caught or evicted. They would be back at the same place next day. Aren’t we smart?

Smart power grids, clean energy, smart planning is possible because there will not be much people interaction. Smart signals can help smoothen the traffic, provided we follow the signals. We are smart people, if we have a blocked road ahead of us, then two- wheeler users go on foot paths and rush ahead! Really smart! This morning I  saw an interesting thing. A lady was being trained on a car owned by a Motor Training School. The instructor was sitting next to her. They reached a traffic signal and the signal was Red, the lady was slowing down but the instructor told her to drive through. So much for the training schools! These schools supposedly teach people to drive the car. It was 7.30 in the morning; I waited to see how many people follow signals. 95% jumped the signals. This is smartness, why waste time in the morning when there is no traffic?

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Some good results are already seen, there are smart bill boards everywhere informing public that we are a smart city. Is it? But nobody has told me. There is a cycle sharing application where authorities have made cycles available to people. These have electronic locks. These can be used and money is paid by using an app on cell phone. Payment is done by using PayTm. In last three months, Pune has shown that 3,00,000 trips have been taken by people. The idea behind this is to encourage last mile usage of fuel less systems, like cycles. It is definitely encouraging.

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Compared to cities in India, most cities in developed world are “smart cities”. Why is this so? It is because people are sensible, they need not be smart. People are trained to follow rules and discipline right from childhood. In my previous blog, I had written about “I don’t care” attitude we have, when it comes to public behavior. We do not take cleanliness and discipline seriously. In cleanliness, Pune is much ahead of many cities in India. When we talk of clean city, it is not about roads being cleaned every day.  Dumping garbage on roads and then sweeping and putting in dumpsters is what we do today. Instead, people should put their garbage in dumpsters, directly. That is smart!

Friends, government is doing its job by creating great infrastructure by planning and proposing systematic things for smart cities, to me this is the tangible side of any city; but unless we contribute by being proactive, self-disciplined and smart, unless we ride the crest of these intangibles, our cities will never become “Smart Cities”! It is the intangibles, that are going to make Cities Smart!

False Pride 2!

In my blog False Pride 1, I had mainly written about attitude and behavior of the people. One of the most important aspects in Indian ethos, is that many old practices and traditions have continued. We have songs, poems and writings about clean and beautiful rivers with lovely birds; we have sayings like “cleanliness is godliness”. But this is one area where we have failed miserably.

                                          जहॉं डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडिया करती हैं बसेरा, वह भारत देश हैं मेरा।

Roughly translated, the song praises India, “The place where Golden Sparrows live happily on trees, this is my great Country, Bharat!” The song also says we are peace loving and truthful, disciplined people. Sometime back a satellite was sent in space and was given the work of checking on our great Bharat! They got many high-resolution pictures. And lo what did they find? All the scientists were flabbergasted while studying the photos. The photos were taken by special laser and X ray vision.

All over India they saw bits of paper lying all over and flying in the wind, of course Kachra! All over India they also found a lot of chits of paper neatly bound and stored. They thought that Indians love cookies and as they analysed the data further, they were surprised that cookies were metallic as well as paper cookies! When this data was given to Indian Government, they found that it is hoarded money and gold!

We as a society are proud of our culture but en masse we break rules, we cheat. It all starts with our daily routine. It is about morning ablutions. Even in the year 2018, our government is still required to run advertisement informing the importance having toilets inside homes. In olden times, as there were no pucca homes, using places a bit away from home was natural, though a bit risky. This practice continues even today; in certain parts of India it is macho to say that we have toilets in home but we still go in the field. It is so manly!  But what about women folk?

Our holiest of the river is the river Ganga. It is said that if we take a bath in the river we will be purified of all our sins. Maybe it is possible, I have never had a  bath in the Ganga but I am told that it is very dirty. Many towns, cities dump their drainage directly into Ganga, the tanneries dump their waste in it. Even today the dead bodies are dumped in the river with a belief that the person will go directly to heaven, due to this final holy dip! Successive governments are allocating large funds to clean Ganga but the problem is unresolved due to unclean minds of the people.

Pune, the city where I live, has a pair of rivers called Mula/Mutha. We have the same problem of drainage going in the river without treatment, by design; corporation has not built many sewage treatment plants.  The river Mutha is so small that the water that generally flows, is drainage water. While doing survey of the river bed, while designing the path for Metro, the team leader during the visit asked, “Where is the river”? The municipal corporation shows total apathy, people also add to this apathy. The building and road construction people, dump their rubble in the river bed. There is no check on them, they are never caught even though this is done openly. While driving on any bridge on the river, we see people throw the old flowers and pooja material  in the river. It is supposed to be the correct thing to do so, as per traditions.

Then of course, we have mass looting of sand from rivers, ores from mines mafia. We have sandalwood loot from jungles. There are people who steal electricity en mass. People in certain areas just don’t pay electricity charges; when authorities come to cut their power, they are beaten and forced to go away. I read in today’s newspaper that for high school 12th grade exam in UP, 1 million examinees just did not turn up. The reason? Government has taken strict measures to ensure that the education mafia is checked. Proxy candidates appearing for exams was the norm, hence the absenteeism, now. In Marathwada region of Maharashtra, some years back it was suddenly seen that students became brilliant, their pass % almost reached 90% plus. This was simply due to lax supervision. Once government ensured that district collector was personally responsible they had to make sure that there were no malpractices;  result % of pass students went below 40%.

You go to any major city in India. Vehicles are parked in no parking areas or on footpaths in droves. Signals are similarly jumped en masse. Once the traffic policemen go home in the evening, the traffic boards of “One Way, No Parking, Even/odd date parking” exist just for the name sake. Two wheelers are meant to carry two people, we ride 3/4 at a time! Helmets are mandatory for two wheelers, majority simply don’t follow the law. We see auto rikshas ferrying 12/15 children for school, when the official capacity is 3!

Where is this leading? How to prevent this? Who are the people breaking law? It’s you and me! It is rich and the poor! It is people from city and villages! It is educated and un educated people!  All break various laws en masse! Many of us are proud of breaking laws. We sing paeans of our heritage, our culture, our traditions! These traditions came into being when people lived in smaller places, villages; there was no population pressure. Why old disciplined culture from villages not transferred to large cities? In fact, this same lack of culture from cities is now going back to smaller places. Probably, in olden times, people respected, each other, helped each other because most knew each other. In the anonymous culture of large cities, people just don’t seem to care or bother about others. But again, some of our brethren who live in foreign countries, merge seamlessly with local culture where they normally live; once they are back in India, they are back to their normal Indian behavior. Does this mean that they behave differently in foreign countries not by choice but because they are forced to so?

We have a great culture, which goes back to thousands of years. We have great traditions. I am not able to understand why these changes have happened in our mass behavior in cities as well as in villages; the foreigners politely say, ” Oh, India is a different country!” What is the way out of this? How to coax masses to behave in orderly disciplined way? How to make people understand that cheating in every thing is not the correct way? People say that this should start from school level. But we read of big scams where teachers never go to schools, to get the grants, higher number of students are shown on the roll! Teachers take the profession because many of them are not good enough to do anything else. There are institutions who do not pay the salaries to teachers for months together.

I will tell you story of my cousin. He is a PhD from IIT, Kanpur. After retirement from industry,  he taught his subject in one of the engineering colleges. Then he wanted to move to another city. His college offered him to stay on their payroll. Well they needed a good PhD. They offered him Rs. 1,00,000/ salary per month! So where is the catch? The management told him that they will withdraw Rs. 80,000/ every month using ATM card. He did not join back!

I am not a pessimist! But these are some problems for which I do not see any solution in near future. Do you?  What is it that we are proud of? My beautiful, lovely India is only in songs!

Jinx !

A couple of days back a new Metro line was inaugurated in Delhi’s NCR area. The occasion was graced by India’s Prime Minister, Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh and Governor of Uttar Pradesh. The line starts from NOIDA in UP and terminates within Delhi limits. The news item also said that this is the first time in more than 20 years, Chief Minister of UP has visited NOIDA. NOIDA is city of about one million population and no CM would go there, because those CM’s who visited NOIDA, lost their Chief Minister ship, immediately after the visit. So, the story spread that such visits are jinxed. In such a large city in the state, the Chief Ministers did not visit a major city due to “jinx”! This is simply unbelievable!  

On one side we are talking of Metros, Super Computers and on the other side we are talking of jinxes! Black cat crossing the path, evil eye causing havoc in lives! We are more scared of jinxes than of illnesses! Is it a way of finding someone or something to blame? In our universe there is some power which controls everything. Nobody knows anything about the power but we try to “control” it by taking action or performing some rituals. When something unpleasant happens, we call it a jinx. But when unexpected good event happens, we are not worried, we feel this happened because of my hard work. Problem is that we do not take life in stride, always try to look for easy solutions to anything unpleasant. It can be a ritual, it can be blaming the jinx.  

When we are true to ourselves, we know that chilly/lemon combination does not make the “evil” go away. Tying a black doll on the main door of our home does not force the evil to go away. The problem starts with the definition of evil. What is evil? Definition of evil is anything that happens out of turn in life, anything bad happens in life is evil. But what is bad? Is death of a parent bad? Yes of course, it is. But if the death happens at the age of say 80 plus, is it not a normal life event? Should this be treated as evil?  I don’t think so. In certain areas in Britain, death happening after the age of 80, without any serious health complications, is celebrated. There is party organized by the family which is called Golden Death Party! It is to celebrate good life lived by that person. In our culture also, after any death, lunch is arranged on a specific day, e.g. 13th day, and some sweets are served. The logic behind this is that we should bring the life back to normal routine, after the death!  

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In life when things happen out of turn, death of a young person in the family, sudden loss in business, a divorce in the family, sudden loss of an opportunity for higher studies, such things do happen. When such events occur, we feel that life has cheated us! To make sure that such events do not recur, we start following certain rituals. But does it really help? Sometimes events occur which are natural calamities, sometime due to market forces in the world; illnesses occur out of blue. By performing rituals, are you so sure that they are not going to recur? Events occur due to the reason that they are destined to happen in one’s life! We know of people who have never taken any alcohol, dying of liver cirrhosis. We know of non-smokers dying of throat or lung cancers. We have seen extremely fit athletes dying of heart failure on the field itself! This is destiny!  

The other day, I read an article about what people have done at Mandhara Devi, a famous deity near Satara, in Maharashtra. When it becomes dark people are sticking chits on trees, cursing whoever they want in writing and hoping that they will die in accident, or their houses will burn and so on! This is the reverse of the ritual. People feel that if they wish bad things for people in the mandir, their foes will really face problems! They forget that so called bad things happen as they are defined in one’s destiny and not by someone wishing bad things.  

One thing is for sure. Jinx and allied rituals are there in all cultures, world over. Human race cannot accept things happening out of turn; one interesting thing about rituals is black colour is used predominantly in rituals world over. Black Cats are supposedly bad omen but black Kohl dot on the forehead of babies is supposed to drive away the evil! 

 

In India, we see many Trucks with the famous writing on their back sides  बुरे नजरवाले तेरा मुह काला to drive away the evil! But that does not prevent some stray truck from ramming on the back side of the same truck! Let’s take things in stride and drive away bad stuff; it does not happen by way performing rituals.

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India 2020 or 1820?

                                                                  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?  

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.