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.

Montreal Musings-day to day living V!

Two days after we left Montreal for Pune, it started to snow in Montreal. The coincidence was that the day we reached Pune, it stopped raining. I could see the difference. We in Pune have rains ¾ months during monsoons. The rain intensity is heavy only for a couple of spells of 2/3 days during the season. Otherwise, the rain is hardly ever discussed in Pune and we can move around easily most of the time without an umbrella! But winter in Montreal is quite harsh, and temperatures are below – 0 degrees to sometime –35 degrees. The severity is quite consistent, and people are very much geared up to handle the winter.  

One thing I realised in Canada, that the time taken to get ready to go out is high. Even if you are going out casually, you have to prepare. In India, you may probably quickly change into Jeans and Tshirt. You may wear sandals instead of chappals. In Montreal first you need to check up weather report and understand if it is going to rain, or there is going to be snowfall. You also need to check up if it is going to be windy because the windchill effect is going to create more problems. We may need to wear thermal wear or layered clothing. You need to protect against rains too. Umbrella handling becomes very tricky if it is going to be windy. Then comes the hoody, the scarf, the wool cap and scarf. 

On top of that, you need to select the right jackets depending on the temperature. You also need to decide if you need to wear regular socks (sometimes two on top of each other) or woollen socks! In short, one could easily take ten to fifteen minutes to get ready to go out. Ladies, of course, should add their additional time requirement of getting ready! 

I faced one difficulty. With all this winter gear, our side vision gets restricted due to scarves and hoodies. Plus I always used to cover my nose with the scarf. Due to this covering, there used to be fogging of my glasses, which needed to be wiped regularly. But when there was no rain or strong wind (it did now snow during our stay) walking was a great pleasure. Weather was always fresh, and the pollution was almost nonexistent! I forgot to mention hand-gloves but keeping hands in the jacket pockets was good enough during our stayWe walked a couple of Km at a time, many times and it was fun.  

Another thing I observed was that people mainly wear black or darkish clothes during winter. It is natural as black colour absorbs heat rather than reflecting like the white colour. Another thing we see on the road is other than retired people most people walk very briskly. The brisk walk is because it is so cold that you want to reach your destination as early as possible. Plus brisk walk also generates heat! We living in India do not understand the importance of the Sun because we always have it. In these cold countries, sunny days in winter are infrequentWe are lucky to be living in the region where weather is temperate.  

I came to know during discussions that many senior citizens live all by themselves. They manage with some hired support and sometimes without assistance. I have seen that some larger grocery stores give you free delivery at home if you buy items worth more than $50/. I am sure that there may be some online stores who provide home delivery of many things with or without some rider! Amazon is always there!  

I also saw many shops from the chain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DollaramaIt’s beginning was in 1905, and it has become big chain with stores at more than 1000 locations. They initially started with items costing around one dollar, but now they have increased the range a bit and have things costing up to five dollars. The change allowed them to increase the range of products they can keep in the store. We don’t buy expensive items daily, and Dollarama has created a store where day to day lowcost needs are satisfied.  

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Baklavas!

I am aware that Canada is a country of immigrants. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of establishments run by Iranians/Libyans and people from the middle-east region. The strong Iranian presence was indicated by the presence of a big coffee shop at the Montreal Airport. Besides having the usual Sandwiches, Lays and Doritos, the shop had a big section selling different types of Baklava! It was like an outlet like the ones we have on Indian airports, Haldiram items.  

Now I have reached the end of my series so let me share my travel experience during the return journey. I am always amazed to see that desi crowd in a group somehow cannot show basic discipline. At the Montreal Airport, the desi crowd on the flight was about 20/25 %The line for boarding and the actual boarding process was quite smooth.

But for my next leg from Munich to Mumbai 80-85%, people were desis. I could see the difference in the behaviour of the people in the queue, unnecessary pushing and shovingDo desis feel that flight is going to go without them? Are they afraid that they may not get a place to sit? Are they worried that they may not get space to put their carry on baggage? don’t know what makes them behave chaotically.

I am sharing below a tweet sent by Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group. 

Only flights to & from India at most airports have so many wheelchairs pre-ordered. Trying to figure out why. 1) Do elderly Indians travel more than others? 2) Do we have more infirm/unfit people? 3) Are we just jugaadus who order wheelchairs to get faster access through queues!?pic.twitter.com/eyIm5O4KB1 

I feel that the third point mentioned by him is the correct analysis. Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi, Bengali, Marathi जुगाड, Punjabi and Urdu word, which has various meanings depending on the situation. Roughly translated, jugaar is a “hack”. It could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way.  

Or I feel that we Indians where ever possible, want to cut corners. Where ever possible bend the rule. For ordering a wheelchair, you don’t need a doctor’s certificate. You order it, and the attendant helps you go through all formalities till you are in your car. I can understand this if one is unwell, or one does not know a word in any foreign language. But when you are fit, you know English, and you are going for 5th time, you don’t need this support. But it is the children of these people who are equally responsible; they make them dependent on things and do not explain what needs to be done.  

My neighbour lived in the UK and wanted his mother to join him for the first time. She could speak only Gujarati. We asked her how much foreign exchange she had with her. Her son had arranged for not a single dollar. Then we gave her about the US $50/ in a different denominationand told her if some delay takes place at Heathrow, she could at least buy some biscuits and water. 

I hope in future these folks will guide their parents properly and make them confident. I have seen Goras who are 80 plus, walking all over the airport without any help. 

Now I am back in Bharat Desh, and I can see a lot of fun (stupidity?) going on in Mumbai! Let us watch and see what happens in future!  

 

  

Light your own path- Diwali!

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I think this the second time in my 70 years, I am not at our home for Diwali. Someone asked me how I was celebrating Diwali in Montreal? My simple answer was this is the longest Diwali celebration we had, ever. We reached here end of August and will be back to Pune in early November. For Jaya and me, all these two months have been like Diwali. With Rhea, Priya and Nikhil around, every day was spent like Diwali. For me, Diwali is a mindset. We should have Diwali every day by being able to share the happiness with your loved ones; most of the times being with them itself is happiness!

In the conventional sense, Diwali is the festival of lights that celebrates the victory of good over evil. In ancient India, Diwali was a major harvest festival, and the lighting of the lamps was associated with the sun.

The meaning of Diwali is a festival of the light which dispels the darkness of our ignorance; it is a festival of the light which shows us the way on our journey through life. The purpose is not to glorify the light of the candle, or the light of the firecracker. The purpose is to glorify the light of God.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories. Nonetheless, the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

But the question that comes to mind is why there is evil in this world? There are, of course, some outright evil events, evil people. But the percentage of such people is small. People turn into evils over small issues or events. Jealousy, not being happy with what you have are some of the reasons. These are some of the small hurdles that can be easily overcome, especially by people like me who are in the golden period of life. But this is easier said than done.

We have a “beautiful” app called WhatsApp available to us, thanks to modern technology. Diwali time is the time where it is totally misused. I have received hundreds of Happy Diwali messages, but only two of them were specific. It was written,” Pramod, how you folks are spending Diwali in Montreal? You must be missing Pune and so on!” There were phone calls, and we made phone calls to wish people Happy Diwali. All other messages were “forwards.” Some were self-created greetings but again with no personalisation. Do we really feel happy or do we really mean it when we forward a Happy Diwali message? To me, at least it is as good as an automated message coming to me from my Bank or from online shops where I buy things! Some of them at least a take an effort in personalising the message (using the software) and say “Dear Pramod, bla bla bla!”

On one of the COEP groups, there is a rule of not sending forwards! But during Diwali so many Happy Diwali “forwards” were sent that my friend Sharad was exasperated and wrote,

It looks like all the Admins are tired of telling the members not to send greetings on this group. We have received so many happy Diwali messages that I am worried whether we will have indigestion of happy Diwali. 

Is Diwali something special that makes us forget the rules? There are about 150 people on this group so you can imagine the clutter that we managed to create.

I was trying to understand the tradition of burning crackers during Diwali. The tradition somehow started in old times with the idea of scaring away evil spirits; people forget that there are no evil spirits, physically; the evil spirit is in the mind of the people. Nowadays, the crackers that are burst have very high decibel noise; sometimes it is impossible to sit peacefully at home even with all windows shut! The style now is to burst a set of ten thousand crackers at a time, loosely linked to each other. World over, bursting crackers is a part of many celebrations. But in western countries, it is done at a safe, designated area like a ground or a stadium. But we….. just don’t want to learn.

There are so many good traditions but even with the spread of knowledge why do we stick old not so good traditions. During Diwali, families visit each other, give gifts, spread the joy. Some people paint their homes before Diwali. Then there has been a tradition of putting up beautiful lanterns at home. Though readymade ones are available, in some families there is still the tradition of making lanterns at home. It is a way of coming and staying together in our busy lives.

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Rangoli is an art form from India in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as coloured rice, dry flour, coloured sand or flower petals. It is usually made during Diwali, but it is also made in Onam, Pongal and other Indian festivals. Rangoli is done on any auspicious day during the year. I am not saying that this art is dying, but this could be easily followed by many more art-minded people!

Diwali is a good opportunity to get great gifts from others; it is a part of the tradition. Ladies don’t forget to get a big gift from your husbands on Padwa. Make some nice faral for them; you will get what you want. Brothers don’t be stingy. Give some lovely gifts to your sisters; they are the ones who really love you but cannot express it regularly because they have left “your home” after marriage. Give them lots of love and make them feel at home!

A new trend has started as per the information shared by some shop keepers. In olden times new clothes etc. were purchased before Diwali or before your school restarted if you had outgrown your school uniform. Now with increased incomes in many families, there is no Diwali purchase. People just go out on weekends and buy new stuff! There was a time when I was younger, my mother used to make Diwali special food items at home, just a week before Diwali. Now the trend has changed all these Diwali specials are available round the year.

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But I will be pleased if you manage to keep the “Happy Diwali” state of mind all-round the year. There will be illnesses, there will be sad events but treat them like a blip, they are part of life;  but have Diwali round the year,  after all, by reaching the golden phase of life, we have earned it!

HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL MY FRIENDS!

Montreal musings, day to day life IV!

I had expected that day to day musings III would be my last of the musings in the series. But so many new things came up, and many of them were unexpected to me. Hence I am going ahead with this blog.  

I met one family yesterday evening in the garden where Rhea practices with her cycle and the couples son also practices. So Nikhil and Priya know the parents. We were introduced yesterday with them, and we chatted for some time. He asked me a question. He said, “Which is that small country between India and Iran, not Pakistan.” I said, “ I don’t know such a country.” Then he suddenly said, “Oh! It’s Kashmir!” I explained to him the whole situation briefly then he realised the issue. Incidentally, he is a Jewish person, and we know their views about certain people. He and his wife are both educated, but their knowledge about our part of the world is imperfect. They know about India’s progress in general as they meet a lot of smart Indians these days in Canada!  

I came to know one more information. Thanksgiving day is celebrated in the US and Canada on different days. In Canada, it will be celebrated this year on 14th October, and in the US it will be celebrated on 28th November. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United StatesIt began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.  The concept is the same as we have in India, where we celebrate Onam, Lohri, Makar Sankranti, and so on. While checking on the net why these are celebrated on different days, there was a cryptic description on one Canadian site, “We don’t have to follow the US in everything.” 

Similarly, now shops are full of items for Halloween festival. 

Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known aAllhalloween. All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.  

It begins the three-day observance of  Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  

Halloween is celebrated by attending Halloween costume parties, trick or treating by children. The children go to every home in the neighbourhood and ask the question trick or treat? They are given chocolates, cookies and such treats. 

Carving pumpkins into the jack-o’-lanterns, lighting the bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films are some of the other activities. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.  

We have similar time in Hindus what we call Pitru Paksha when we remember the dead. But in our country, it is not a celebration but is considered inauspicious. No new investments are made during those two weeks. 

We get surprising experiences once in a while. Today Jaya and I went to a famous French Bakery in the central area of Montreal. While making payments, I was told that they do not accept credit cards; they take only debit cards and cash! Luckily we had some Canadian Dollars in my wallet at that moment. It was reasonably large establishment. While on the subject of payment retired people here too, like in the US, prefer to pay by cash and not by cards. Weather conditions change a lot during a week, but Jaya and I always find it cold. The main reason being, on sunny day, temperature could be around 10 Deg C, but in the shade, we feel cold because most of the times it is windy.  

Last week Jaya and I went out for lunch in an Iranian joint. We always try different foods. While trying to explain the dishes, the owner asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “We are from India.” He straight away shifted to Hindi. He said that he had lived around Delhi for ten years. After that, he said, “Don’t worry, I will serve you excellent food which you will like.” Food was good. Then he also served us sweet Iranian Kolache!. It looked like biscuit but was stuffed with Dates and some other dry fruits. Some Iranian sweets look like Maharashtrian Diwali sweet Anarase. 

Another surprise was the restaurant was an Iranian addaBy the time we finished our food, about 15 Iranians had formed a group and were chatting and eating and having tea! In the background, TV was running an Iranian channelMy friend Veerendra told me that Canada has a large number of people from different nations, spread all over Canada, living peacefully.  

One pleasant surprise is the quality of vegetables. Priya was saying that these are generally produced in QuebecWater content in all this produce is on the higher side than what we get back in Pune. But Cauli Flower, Cabbage, Capsicum and all such vegetables are very tasty much better even than what we get in and around Delhi! Tastes of most of this stuff are much tastier than what I have generally tasted in the US! Of course, varieties are available in the US are amazing. The fad of organic food has not caught up in Canada; it seems. 

Because we are in Quebec, European culture is more prevalent. So are social norms! In our lane, neighbours are quite friendly with each other, and life, in general, appears to be less hectic! Since winters are harsh for longtime people, try to continue outside activities until the snowfall begins.   

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One unique facility we saw which can be there only in rich countries. There is an area in the garden where people bring their dogs, and they can release the leash; dogs are allowed to do whatever they want except of course, poo poo! (It has to be cleaned by the owner!)

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One strange thing. I thought Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Starbucks are known by the same never all over the world. Their menus may change to suit the local pallet. But the above photo is of KFC whose Quebec name is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky). Even in France, it is known by the name KFC! Strange are the ways of this world!  Similarly, I am told that road signs in France say, “STOP” but in Quebec, they are written as “Arrêt”!

I could not resist displaying these two beauties!

Au revoir et faites attention jusqu'à notre prochaine réunion! 
Probably they say bye and take care till we meet again in France ! 

 

 

The grass is greener on the other side!

Yesterday we met one of Priya’s neighbour, while we were going out. Nikhil said, “Long time, no see!” The neighbour said that he had been very busy with work and has a busy time until it starts snowing. He has one of his businesses of cleaning sprinkling systems. I wondered what that business is. He said, “Before it starts snowing, we go to our clients. Empty the sprinkler system, then blow compressed air through the system. By doing this, all the water in the sprinkler is thrown out of the system. Cleaning is done to avoid ice formation inside the system when the system is not used in winter.” In summer, the user can start using the system again.

It put my mind working and I thought how much unaware we are of many things done in the world. Nikhil later told me that even the regular water system also needs to be checked sometimes if the flow is irregular around autumn time. The system is bled during this period to remove airlocks if any! This checking cannot be obviously done once the winter sets in.

There could be many such preventive maintenance requirements which we don’t know. Or we know, but we don’t do it. In our homes, washbasins sometimes tend to get choked after usage. There is one small device readily available in the market. How many of us keep it at home?

The next image shows a filter in the system. How many of us get it regularly cleaned? By doing self-help stuff, we can avoid emergencies.

We are unaware of so many basic things that we run into unnecessary arguments sometimes. In many cities in India, we face water shortage due to deficient rains the previous year. Water supply to homes is available for a specific period during the day. In a society where I have a condo, there was a big fight going on WhatsApp about irresponsible behaviour of people. It was said that some people just don’t care and don’t bother about checking if all taps are closed before they leave for office. When the water supply is restarted in the evening, the water is wasted as it runs; people come home late from office. I explained to them that when the water system goes fully dry, the washers and springs in flush tanks tend to get stuck or damaged. When the water is restarted, the water can continue to flow without being used unless we act on it. Then the management team understood the problem and kept water supply on round the clock, but during certain times it was kept at low pressure.

I have noticed in Montreal, the sincerity of workers. There is work going on on our road. Just now (7 am) the temperature is 2 deg C, but all of the team started work at 7 am sharp. I have not seen this happen in many of our factories also, the so-called organised sector.

Some factors affecting lives in different countries don’t even come to our mind. I know of a friend who removed the snow from his car and was about to leave. But he received a work-related call and was talking on the phone almost for an hour. He came out the second time (it was snowing all the time), removed the snow again and drove away for work. People need to keep their car running for 20 to 30 minutes in winter before moving out, especially if parked in the uncovered area.

We see and enjoy the lovely photographs from Christmas time from many places with white snow in the background. It looks beautiful in the photos, but the snow cleaning in your territory is your job. I saw some homes having staircases from outside to reach home. During the winter, the snow gathered on the stairs is your responsibility; every day you are required to clean the snow accumulated on the stairs. If someone slips because of lack of cleaning, you can be sued!

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I used to live in Model Colony in Pune, during my younger days;  when it rained heavily, a lot of water used to flow down from the hills to our area and flood it. When the rain intensity would reduce, I would go out with my son Sachin, who was 5 or 6 years old then. We would simply clean the leaves that blocked the meshes on the drainage system, and flood would be gone in five minutes. I did it a couple of years back near my office building too with the same results. Honestly, it is no big deal. But the subject came to mind due to water logging issues in Pune recently. Nowadays the drain meshes are blocked by tree leaves as well as by plastic bags. Why can’t some volunteers do this in each area once the rain intensity reduces? I am not talking about the water deluge event that occurred due to cloud burst!

I understand that because of strict traffic rules, hefty fines and their implementation, traffic is generally well-disciplined in western countries. But I have not heard of such laws for pedestrians. But why are pedestrians equally disciplined in these countries? I rarely see them breaking the rules. My granddaughter Rhea (she will be six years old soon) asked me once why don’t we follow these rules in Pune? I had no answer!

Another issue we are not aware of about winter in these areas is clothing. We know that the layers help, thermals are essential. But I was not aware that the snow jackets are designed for different temperatures. In Montreal, temperatures can go down to -35 deg C! So, jackets also have their ranges. In most cases, those designed for – 15 to – 20 deg C are enough. But when the temperature falls further, you need to wear even better ones designed for the temperature of -40 deg C!

I have understood somethings about heating systems at home here. Some are gas-based, some use water heating, and others make use of Electricity for heating. I am, of course, not aware of more details of these systems. I am not likely to understand practical difficulties in these systems as I will not be here in winter.

Each zone, each region, even in one country like India, has very different weather. So, requirements, handling of the systems will be very different from area to area. Cold countries handle temperatures from 35/40 deg C to -35 deg C. Still they manage their systems well. I will tell you about the road repairs in Montreal. It can be handled only for six to seven months in any year before the snow! But this needs a lot of planning, preparation and readiness to handle work when the slot becomes available for repairs. (Potholes in Pune and Mumbai, Delhi?)

I will share one crucial knowledge I acquired. When any area is dug for repairs of utilities like electrical cables, water lines, gas pipes the agencies have the maps ready. They dig the area using normal excavator up to a safe depth. After that, Vacuum excavators are used. They loosen the soil in that area and suck it! So, the chances of damaging any of the pipes or cables become minimal. I do not see Vacuum Excavators being used in India. Maybe they are being used, but I have not seen them!

Friends life in any part of the world has its own issues. In India, we are lucky that for most of the year we have sunlight! Weather for the most times cannot be described as harsh. But what we lack is design, planning, execution and WILL!

Montreal Musings-day to day life III!

Now the writer in me has started understanding the difference in going on a planned holiday on a tour and living at a destination for a reasonable period. Taking a tour is like going for a movie and then to go back to your routine. Whereas staying at a place is like reading a long novel. Enjoy it part by part. And keep on doing it for a much longer duration.

The leaves are changing the colours but not as fast as I have seen at other locations. In Montreal maybe only the Maple leaves change the colours, others only wither as winter arrives. Hopefully, within the next few weeks, I will come to know what happens.  I said this, and I saw some lovely colours today when we went out for lunch.

Public transport is one thing that I am enjoying; I don’t get that opportunity in back home. It feels nice to say hello or good morning to the bus driver while swiping the card. The response is also always a smile. Some of us may think that it is a bit mechanical, but it is anytime better than ignoring each other. Now my French vocabulary has reached the level of Merci and Bonjour! Priya shared one experience with me, which was shocking. Once while Priya was in a bus standing, a lady struggled to climb up with a walker. The driver did not start the bus as she was struggling and must have been hoping that someone will provide her with a seat. The driver even requested people to do so. But it took a few minutes for someone to decide to offer her a seat. Jaya and I are sometimes offered with the seats, but maybe we do not look old enough.

A couple of days back there was Environmental March which 50000 people attended. On that day, Montreal city contributed in a very innovative way. The public transport for all the people was free for the whole day, to encourage people to attend the march.

One thing I observed about the weather is when it is raining intermittently, the temperature may be higher, but it feels damp and cold. Five degrees cooler with Sunshine feels warmer even in the shade.

There is one interesting service offered. In our area, there was a power outage for about four hours due to some cable related issue. The affected zone was isolated, and the power was restored. It is now four days, but the fault is yet to be rectified. But that is not the end of the story. Electricity people have made some temporary arrangement with wiring and have provided power continuously to affected people for these four days using a truck-mounted generator.

Though I see at least one beggar at most Metro Stations (but never more- which is a surprise).

The developed countries have their own different systems and facilities for the pets. I see many shops catering to pets. I see many veterinary doctor’s clinics too! Probably many couples prefer to have Pets instead of children. These shops keep different clothing available for the pets. These include wedding dresses, clothes for winter, raincoats for use during rains and so on.

Another interesting thing found here is the number of flowers and flower beds, currently. People know that the flowers are going to last only for six or seven months, every year before winter takes over. But they follow this expensive hobby!

One fascinating place to visit is the festival of lights at the Botanical Garden, near the Olympic Stadium. Inspired by the ancient Chinese tradition, this event has been enchanting people since its creation. Glittering lanterns of various shapes illuminate the Chinese Garden and the eyes of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magical spectacle. The Japanese Garden leads you along a meditative illuminated path inspired by the seasons, and the First Nations Garden features an intense multimedia experience that lets you feel the beating heart of the Cycle of Life. One interesting thing; the path in the Japanese garden is quite dark, but they have made the displays with the help of mirrors, the trees appear as if they are full of fireflies! One more speciality was the Bonsai trees. One of them was as old as 160 years.  Montreal Olympic Stadium Tower in the background of light festival.

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Even as late as 15 years many Indian food items were difficult to procure, including the raw material like dal etc. But it is a pleasant surprise that most of the things are available here in Montreal reasonably easily. One can imagine their availability in the Bay area in SFO and New Jersey!

It appears that the preparations for Durga Pooja, Garba in Navratri and Diwali are already on or are being discussed. I will feel happier when assimilation of festivals also takes place, and friends other than those of Indian Origin are invited to celebrate such festivals.

I hear of Indian people who have been living in Toronto and Montreal for more than forty years. In the initial phase of their lives, it must have been trying for them to live an Indian way of life. But with more and more people living in different parts of the world, I was not surprised to see a typical store in one of the malls selling Agarbattis! Business is the ultimate leveller in this world. I read somewhere recently, that Agarbattis worth Rs. 800/ crores were imported in India from China. When we were on the Alaska Cruise about three years back, there were at least forty different Indian food items available in the spread. These included Dal- Khichdi and Malvani Fish!

With more and more Indian professionals becoming financially more comfortable at a young age, they are going to travel more, and I won’t be surprised if Indian items become very popular like Indian Curry and Indian Restaurants in the UK! Add to this, the children of Indians born in foreign countries; so, this number is going to become very big as keeping touch with home base  has become more comfortable with video calling and internet calling.

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By the way, we went out today to eat Pani-puri and Wada-Pav! But I had Wada-pav and Thali!  The joint is started by a French guy who got himself trained in Mumbai.The Chai was served the Indian cutting way.

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The day before yesterday, I had breakfast in a restaurant serving middle eastern food, on top of that it was vegan. There was some lovely omelette, another item which was like our Sanja and a dish made out of lentils with a nice bread! I had fun.

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Another thing I saw on Montreal roads. Public charging of EV’s is now available. My little knowledge of driving cars for fifty-plus years tells me that fuel tank and the lid are on the opposite side of where the driver sits. But the Tesla I saw being charged on the road, had the charging on the same side as the driver side! Can anybody explain to me why this would be so? All other EV’s seen in Montreal followed the normal convention!

Some interesting things like Puneri Patya!

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.  

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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!