The change of mindset! 

It is commonly said that change is the only constant in life. I generally believe in this statement, but some things do not change, they remain constant. Why do some things not follow the universal law of change? These constants are mainly about human behaviour. In these constants, methods might change, but basic things don’t change. Some changes happen stealthily, and others happen fast. 

You must be aware that technological changes appear to be happening fast, but they have their development cycles from 10, 20 to 50 years. People are working in the background; many trial and errors take placeThese inventions bring out changes. But this is about the technological and other changes. Social and human behaviour change takes much longer time to change, and some of the things don’t change at all. Attacks on women and rapes continue to happen 

You must be wondering why I am writing about rape and cashless transactions, together, in this blog. Cash transactions in India are our habits and, we don’t want to go away from them. There are reasons. In business, cash transactions are done to cheat on tax. But the small transactions which I am going to discuss can easily be changed by providing technology and making it mandatory.  These changes will change the mindset of people once the benefits are understood.

RFID tags are mandatory to pay toll on highways, from 15th December. There will be only one lane available for those vehicles without tag, and they will be charged double the amount. Tags will change large number of cash transactions happening daily to cashless. But how to change the mindset in cases of rape? It has to start from home, and the boys should be taught by their mothers and sisters to respect the ladies in society. In a patriarchal society, males think that they can get away with anything. But during growing age, the boys must be taught that it is only human species that rape the ladies. All other species do consensual mating and that too during mating seasons. The law of the jungle does not apply to the sex life of other species. 

Take the case of Nirbhaya 2 that has happened in HyderabadThe news has shaken India because people of India had hoped that events like Nirbhaya would not happen again. I am not saying that there will be no rapes, but the actions after that, killing the victim, burning her body are horrible. I was hoping that this kind of brutality will not happen again after the Delhi event in 2012. But it has happened! I am not sure if such incidents happened while we were an undeveloped society say, 2000 years back. Now there are laws in place. It is known that culprits of such events get the death penalty. Still, how do such ruthless attacks take place 

Mind you; I am not talking about the rape but the methodology. Rape is one social behaviour that is going to be a constant in human lives. Majority of rape cases happen to involve known people or relatives. That is even more dangerous. Some people argue that women wear provocative dresses. In these two Nirbhaya cases, the ladies were wearing day to day clothes. The common factor in both these cases is that the rapists were all from the transport industry, uneducated, and young (One in Delhi case was a 16-year-old boy)About provocative dresses, the definition of each individual is different. Some (in)humans rape even babies! It is more to do about mindset. Writing on this subject makes me very uncomfortable and sad.  

We will now look at one change that is happening in IndiaWe Indians love to do commercial transactions in cash. Any attempt to change the mindset is resisted, and people try to find loopholes. What I am writing about is not a significant technological change, but it is the application of the existing technology which will reduce cash transactions in a big way. I am talking of RFID tags to be made mandatory for vehicles to pay the toll on Indian highways. The technology has been in existence for a long time, and I have seen this used in the US 15 years back. Every day people travel on highways in large numbers. If we check the collective wastage of fuel, time of people while waiting in line to pay the toll, it is colossal wastage. When you have a tag pasted on your vehicle, the vehicle needs to reduce speed to approximately 15 Km at the toll plaza. The system will do the work. Hundreds of Crores of rupees of cash transactions will get converted to “cashless’’. If we calculate fuel and time saving on all India basis, the numbers will justify the mandate.

What we need to do is to provide changes which will save time and energy and cover large number of people. When Metro starts to run in a big way in Mumbai or Pune in next ¾ years, there should be system of providing common pass to Metro, “current local trains” and BEST (in Mumbai) and PMPML (in Pune). It is a common system world over. In a “small” Metropolis like Montreal with a population of 1.5 million, the scanning cards for monthly, weekly duration are provided. Metro in Montreal carries 1.3 million passengers a day, very smoothly. These scanning systems work efficiently. When I went to see World Cup final at Melbourne in 2015, the scanning system for tickets easily handled entry of 93000 plus spectators in a short time. There were hardly any queues. The change I have suggested will eliminate vast number of cash transactions in these two cities; it will make life easy for people. PMPML is currently facing an issue of disposing off coins (2.5 million) which are lying with them because banks have refused to accept such a huge number of coins. It is the change in mindset that it is crucial. Mindset change should be in people as well as officials who run these organisations. 

We need to change the mindset in every field. The societies which are open to accept the change improve, or else they remain uncivilised. In India, you look at any area; we don’t want to use the “queue” system. We quickly break traffic rules; motorbikes are driven on footpaths when there is a traffic jam. We drive vehicles on the wrong side, nonchalantly. It is our mindset that needs to change. Leave your home 10/15 earlier instead of breaking the rules.  

What do we need to do, to change the mindsets? To me, social studies should be a mandatory subject in every field like engineering, medicine, economics. It should be compulsory for all courses. Parents should be the role models to the children. If mothers break traffic rules while going with their children, it is guaranteed that the child will break the rules when he/she grows up! Mom is always right! Large organisations are helping in some way by making it mandatory for their employees to wear a helmet while coming to the office! But some employees put on their helmet only two minutes before they reach the office. It is my head, who the hell is my office to make it mandatory? Such an attitude is a result of not wanting to change the mindset.  

My definition of developed country is a country where a small minority breaks public rules! You get different feeling on the roads in such countries. Why we Indians do not want to change? We take pride in not following the basic rules in a society. Is this because of British rules we had? In the last 50 years of British rule, we started doing everything against the government to make their life miserable. We seem to have forgotten that now we have our own government for the last 70 years. So we should stop the non-cooperation movement, change our mindset! To me, this is the biggest challenge in India!  

Ever the optimist, I discussed with an Uber driver, about the fast tag. He said, “Modi is going to make our life miserable. Fast tag, camera-based traffic violation fines! But sir, we deserve this! We will probably take five years to see the dramatic effects of these things. We need this. In the last six months, I can see the effects on traffic violations!”

Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

Aarey, Quo Vadis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.terraconindia.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

NalStop1

Pune traffic during rush hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montreal Musings- day to day life II!

Since I am in Montreal for a homestay, visiting different places is more incidental than specific. I am trying to see how people, live, behave in their day to day lives is more important to me. Human beings are the same everywherewith some natural local and regional variances. To me, it is the interactions and actions that are more important.  

One very interesting facility was observed in a housing society made up of condos. They have kept an enclosed, empty plot. During nonwinter times, these plots are offered to residents for use. The plots are of twothree sizesUsers can plant vegetables, flowers, or whatever they want: the seeds and technical help is offered by a gardener available. The gardener helps and guides you as per your needs. For this period you can grow what you want and enjoy! What a novel idea! 

The buses have the swiping card system or for, onetime use, you have to put coins to get the tickets. Once a senior citizen was trying to swipe the card, it would not work. It was 2nd of the month. The driver asked the gentlemen, “Have you recharged the card yesterday on the 1st”? The gentleman had forgotten and said so. He said, “Get it done later today.” Subject over. Empathy?  

Many of you must have travelled to different nations and have seen the world. But to me travelling in a city in local transport is the best way of knowing small unique things. While travelling by Metro yesterday, we were in the compartment next to the driver. I saw guy entering the train with his bicycle. I was surprised. Nikhil told me, “Baba, it is allowed only during specific timings and only in that compartment where they had provided space for a few cycles. The cycle owner is supposed to stand near the cycle and not take a seat; even if the train is empty.”  

Yesterday, we went to visit the Botanical GardenThe garden is just next to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It was a nostalgic visit for Jaya and me. We were in Montreal in 1981 for two days. We had explicitly travelled to see the thennew Olympic stadium, which held the 1976 OlympicsIf you folks remember, that Olympic was famous for the super performance of Nadia Comaneci from RumaniaFor the first time in historyshe had scored perfect score of 10.00I felt a little sad that in certain areas the maintenance was poor!

Nadia Comaneci! Then and now!

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada!

 

It seems that Canada is way ahead of many countries in having beautiful gardens. I am sharing some photos for you. We had visited Victoria, B.C., on the west coast of Canada in 2016, as a part of Alaska Cruise. We had visited Butchart Garden then. That is the one the best Gardens, if not the best; we have ever visited. I am sharing some of the Butchart Garden photos too!  

Another observation was that in Montreal, I met many young Indian Diaspora during the Ganapati festival. I found that these people are working in different fields. One chap was working in Atlas Copco. A couple of guys were artists, not animation experts. A few were working in financeand a fellow was working othe logistics side of an engineering Company. I noted that one chap was working in Air Canada. Out of the people I met, only about 25 % were working in IT! It was a pleasant surprise for me.  

I have enjoyed the change of colour of leaves in Boston and Maine area; and also is the Seattle area. There the colour changes from green to yellowish to orange. Whereas in Canada, the Maple trees are predominant. The Maple leaf changes its colour to red; hence, the Canadian flag also has Maple leaf on it.  

nadia3

I had never bothered to check why this happens. There is a simple explanation though the science behind it is complicatedDuring summer and autumn, the leaves use Sunlight and Carbon dioxide the make their food. They also get water through roots. They create oxygen and food. The process is helped by green Chlorophyll which masks the other colours which are already present on the leaves and are seen when Chlorophyll goes away.   

Winter days are short and dry. Many plants stop making food in the fall. The chlorophyll goes away. Then we can see orange and yellow colours. These colours were in the leaves all summer, but the green covered them up. The trees survive on the food they have made during summer and autumn.  

Enough of science. When go out every day, I observe the changes in the leaves and their colours. Some become red earlier; some take more time. There are many shades of red that we can see. Not all the maple leaves become blood red, as we see in the photographs. One question always comes to my mind. Why do humans not follow the same discipline that is followed by nature? 

Another question always comes to mind about assimilation. How do “outsiders” assimilate with the culture of the country that they have adopted? According to me, this should be easy for people from India because we have different cultures in each state; we have different languages spoken in each state. Many people in North India have never seen the sea in their life, though India has long shoreline. I saw snow for the first time at the age of 35, when I had travelled to Germany in winter. But we have regions in India where there is regular snowfall in winter. But ultimately it comes to your openness, your adaptability, your will to accept change. I see people of different colour and creed, religions and languages in Canada. I am sure that those who assimilate live a comfortable life.  

Still, a month and a half more to go in Canada and I am sure I will have more tidbits later. I have read that average Montreal temperatures in October are 15 deg high to 5 deg low, sometimes even going to zero! So those are going to be different days in terms of weather. I never lived in these temperatures. About that, I will write later when I shiver through those temps!

À bientôt, jusqu'à mes prochaines friandises!

 

 

Modernity, Life’s full circle!

 

Oldage3A couple of days back, I was talking to a classmate of mine. I had called to wish her on her 70th birthday! I was pleased when she said, “Pramod, I feel as if I am around 50 or 55 but surely not 70!” The in and around 70 generations, was born after India got independence from the British in 1947. Our behaviour, thinking and attitude depend on our personal experiences, and the way society acts. Under Britishers, the Indian public, government officials had a different attitude towards Goras! Indians would treat Britishers with deference. My father was a police officer, and whenever he spoke of Britishers, I could feel that he would talk with a lot of respect to the Britishers. It was the result of 150 years of British dominance. My father, otherwise, was not a docile personality. Such an attitude could be seen in the sports arena too! Sunil Gavaskar was the first cricketer who showed “attitude” with his bat and then as a person against foreigners.

Later generations have changed; it can be seen in the behaviour of Tendulkars and Kohlis! As people started travelling internationally and met foreigners regularly for business or otherwise, the change was seen in society, in general. But change is not seen on personal levels in certain areas of life. Lately, I see people writing emotional stories and sharing their views about family-related issues. Our generation has become, so-called old, but due to migration, our children could be anywhere in the world right from Timbuktu to Rio de Janeiro; the children have spread for work and due to immigration. The result is that the parents live “alone” as per current discussions. When husband and wife are both around, how can they be alone?

The thought of lonely parents is mainly due to love but also due to unchanged attitude towards life. The post-independence generation did not migrate as much as the current generations do. They were in touch with the base more often. The life expectancy during that period was much less compared with today. The males from the older generation died just after retirement. In those days, the nuclear families had not come up. Hence the retired parents would continue to live in the joint family. They never felt “alone”.

Probably in various stories or write-ups I read (I call them sob stories which friends don’t like), people mix up the words “Alone” and “Loneliness”. When the parents are together, they are not alone by definition. But they can be lonely. But to me, loneliness is the isolation that comes with an expectation unmet, a feeling unreturned. According to my thinking, this is the crux of the matter.

Both parents and children would become and remain unhappy if they do not train their minds to become detached. Life will be much easier if there are no expectations. The closeness and love between them are natural, but remaining too attached causes all the issues. When people live in different cities, states or nations, you cannot expect anybody to be available at the drop of a hat! In today’s business and work scenario, work pressures are high. People are sometimes even worried to take their annual holidays lest they become redundant in today’s competitive world. What does the world detach mean? It means disconnected. Synonyms for detaching are dispassionate or uninvolved.

Once both sides learn to remain detached, life becomes much more manageable. My generation has been luckier than our parent’s generation. We had the benefits of better education, slightly better family finances, more opportunities than the previous generations. We have travelled in bullock carts as well as in Concordes! We have written letters on postcards, and we are using WA and FB! Our life and lifestyle have changed from the rationing of foods to plenty of everything. We bought Coca Cola for 25 paise; now we don’t mind paying Rs.250/ for a cup Coffee!

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My friend HK and his wife are in this photo. They go around on their bikes all over Pune district regularly.

Now my suggestion is that we should also change our thinking about relationships and responsibilities! We also have the benefit of better health compared to the older generation. Should our thought processes also not become modern? When we have done so many things during our working days, why can’t we manage our lives post the 70’s? What is the big deal? Should we be dependent on our children for support during this golden phase? Financial dependence and needs can be different for each individual and family. These requirements should be resolved by each family but besides that, why we cannot be independent of children? There could be health issues. Your child may be living in the same city, or maybe she lives 100 km from where you live. That does not mean that the children will have time to help and support you regularly.

On similar lines, children should also understand that your parents growing older does not mean that they are helpless or lonely. The technology that has brought back your old friends, your classmates, are also being used by your parents. They are also having their alumni meets. They meet their friends, and in some cases maybe their ex-flames! Life is changing; there is more openness. We hear of cases where people are meeting each other for companionships. In case of death of one of the spouses, parents of both sexes look for friendship, companionship or in some cases remarriage too! The parents are mature enough or sometimes may not be mature enough. But it is their life; children can give suggestions but let the seniors take the decisions about life.

The seniors should think like what my classmate said the other day. The cliché “age is just a number” becomes relevant. Health permitting, you need not “feel” old. It is up to us! I have come across people who are of the same age as me but talk and feel like a 90-year-olds. I had shared a story about the parents of my Japanese friend. The father is 93, and the mother is 87. The father regularly goes out and travels by Metro to get their groceries etc. It is because they must have decided to remain independent of the children.

Parents, venture out in the bad, bad world, and then you will realise that it is a good, good world! Children, don’t you worry too much about your parents; after all, they are the ones who have brought you up! There is some chance that they know something about the world, is it not! Don’t go overboard about splurging on your parents; they know that you also have your own life! You need to take that holiday to see the midnight Sun! Your children will be going to Oxfords and Harvards of this world! Be sure you use your Video WhatsApp or Google Duo or Skype once in a while. You need not give them iPhone so that you can use Facetime! They are happy with what they have!

I am just saying be realistic, be practical. I humbly request to those who write “Sob Stories” on WA or FB about lonely, old parents. Some parents can get into unhappy mode again, reading such stories. Please leave them alone, let them lead their life (they will be there to support you when you need). But don’t forget that they can live happily on their own!

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India Shining Silently!

Among the political upheavals, hyperbole things are changing in India, slowly but surely. There was a political slogan, India Shining,” sometime back. But India is silently shining. The surprising part is that the change is happening on the Engineering side of life. The engineering feats are not sexy like IT, where smart men and ladies market their achievements.  

I read a couple of news items today. I found them very interesting for a different reason. One of the articles was about railways, and the other was about DRDO. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-railways-piyush-goyal-premium-trains-rajdhani-shtabadi-5796304/ 

I will talk about the railways one first. When we speak of railways, we visualise historical systems, dirty platforms, and bogeys. In general, we get to remember inefficiency everywhere. But this article shares details about how a 20-year-old problem was resolved by Railway Engineering arm. The problem was about LHB coaches which were put into service; these were imported from Germany. There was a problem of coaches shaking, giving jolts while braking or at a higher speed. Railway team found a solution locally. There were about five thousand coaches involved. They replaced the Center Buffer Couplers with new design couplers. They also found that the usual braking method also caused these jolts. Hence they asked the drivers to use regenerative/dynamic braking system when speeds were above 30 Km/hr. With a combination of these two, jumping teacups and jolts have become history. There were 5000 such coaches, but with proper project management, the work on all of them was completed in two years. These stories don’t come out with fancy celebrations; these projects were done as part of routine practice. Great story to make everyone proud. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-israel-spike-anti-tank-missiles-drdo-5796306/ 

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The news above is another silent development of a highly complex military requirement of anti-tank missiles. Initially, the order was placed with Israel, who had a fierce competition with the US. This order was placed in 2014 for 351 launching systems and 8000 plus missiles worth US $ 500/ millions. Indian organisation DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) was also in the process of developing the missiles locally. After successful second stage testing at Ahmednagar, the government decided to cancel the contract with Israel and go ahead with DRDO under Make In India initiative. These weapons are highly sophisticated and use infrared technology which has been proven during testing in hightemperature regions of Rajasthan deserts. No fanfare, the sheer hard work is the key to such success stories. Again this is the story of excellent project management where DRDO will deliver all the systems by 2021 as per requirements of the army! Kudos to DRDO. 

At the end of the second world war, Japan and Germany had lost, and many of their factories and cities were destroyed. All the treaties that were signed ensured that they would not resurrect rapidly. But somehow these nations rose literally from ashes like the Phoenix bird! All this was achieved due to the dedication, will power to excel and love for the nation.  

India, as we know today, became one nation for the first time at the time of independence. With the diversity of people, religions, languages, cultures, it was like Europe or much more complicated. Getting people together itself has been the greatest achievement of the last century, though we do not realise this. India has another significant problem. Our diverse culture has been very mature and has an old history of thousands of years. So, specific thoughts and beliefs are ingrained very firmly in our minds. We take time to change. Added to this was the large population. That India has survived and prospered is a miracle by itself.  

Slowly, we have started to learn to keep the diversity at home and now work together with professional pride as a single proud nation. Reading the above stories gives great hope to me about our great nation and people.  

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The viaduct of Pune Metro!

There are many such stories which are known to us, and we have started taking things for granted. Metro railway is an institution built singlehandedly by the doyen of this technology E Sridharan. He was also instrumental in developing the Konkan railway system. The system was one of the most stringent projects to build because of the tricky mountainous terrain. What Sridharan did was a technological marvel, management marvel. All the projects handled by him were always completed on time.

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Konkan Railway Bridge on the river Panval

My classmate Shashikant Limaye was the chief engineer for bridges on the Konkan Railway project. Shown above is the bridge designed by him on the river Panval (Yes it is supposedly near my native place Panval, where I have never been!). This bridge is 80 meters high from the ground level. It is considered a significant technical achievement in the project. How do people like Sridharan achieve such things? Looking into the smallest of the details has ensured everything works like clockwork on these projects. There is an exciting story about Sridharan. As the Metro lines started becoming operational in Delhi, he would visit different sectors every day to begin his work. Where he would go was not known to anyone. As he entered the station, he would bend and check if there was dust on staircases and escalators by wiping with his hand. What was the result of this dedication? Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow are all having Metro lines or are in the process of installation. All projects have always been completed on time.  

These projects have proven that in India, we can do worldclass technical work and have excellent project management abilities. In the example of bogeys, do not forget that these bogeys were not in one place but spread all over India. The work was completed without hampering the regular services.  

We have been doing great things in Technology. ISRO has already proven that it is India’s showcase worldclass organisation. It competes and beats others from the world in quality, performance and equally importantly, costs! 

On the business side Reliance has done a fantastic job of creating world-class large business; they have proven the same again in their Jio venture too!

But somehow we are not able to go up the value chain in other areas where we can do it. I am talking about the IT industry. They started doing well in ’90 s of the last century with Y2K! They started making big money and started getting large service contracts. Such contracts led to making even more money. In 20 years, these companies became very large, and have so much money that they did not know what to do with that money. Recently they started buying back their own shares from the market. The buyback indicated that they had no plans for developing new skills and gaining expertise in more modern areas. They have still not shown the willingness to go up the value chain. They have the people, the money but lack the will! I sincerely hope that these companies invest some money, human resources, and efforts in creating world-class products! Don’t just become Billionaires; become proud owners of great products!  

 

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term. 

 My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence! 

“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”  

Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.  

Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time. 

As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.  

Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.  

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So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.

Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.  

It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system. 

  1. Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above 
  2. There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)  
  3. I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!  
  4. Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities. 
  5. Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.  
  6. There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can 
    1. Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases 
    2. Take them to movies, dramas 
    3. Arrange community get-together for the elderly 
    4. Help them go to local offices 
    5. Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies 
    6. Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.  
  7. I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?” 
  8. Give them love and affection.  

Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.  

Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.  

Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future. 

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