Malleable or Brittle

A metallurgist like me would be thrilled if I can develop material that is both Malleable and Brittle at the same time. These are different properties for an item, but if we consider a human being, then these properties are called traits. The term malleable, when used regarding metal or other material, is a property to be able to be hammered or pressed into shape without breaking or cracking. The meaning of Brittle is hard but liable to break easily.

Humans achieve these traits over a period. When a human becomes malleable, he is said to be a mature person. Does this sound familiar in life? For humans to come out of the mother’s womb flexibility is the trait that is needed. Flexibility is not the same as malleability, but it is quite similar. For a Metallurgist, malleability is better than brittleness. In life too, it is the same.

Various traits together make our personality. Sometimes we try to improve knowingly and many times unknowingly. In my childhood, my father and mother used to make me attend to various small chores at home. Sometimes I would be happy that they thought that I am responsible enough, though I may have been in the 5th or 6th grade. If these chores clashed with my playing time, I used to be upset. But later I realised that everything has its place in life. Switching to not so important an activity (importance in my view) was more crucial for my persona and family. I understood as I grew up that it was called shouldering the responsibility.

Our families and society are designed to teach the importance of responsibility. Children get their quota of bedtime stories from their parents and if they are lucky, from their grandparents. Bedtime stories are told or read at bedtime. In the changing world, the timing changes but the meaning behind stories remains the same. These days Jaya tells a story a day to our granddaughter Rhea who lives in Montreal, Canada. Because of the time difference, the story-time is 9.30 am their time; Rhea has summer/Corona holiday for her school. As the kids grow, the change in their thought process is fascinating. For Rhea too, the subjects for stories changed over a period. Initially, the stories would be about God and fairies, and then the stories from fables, that always ended with “So what is the moral of the story?” Rhea graduated and told Jaya one day to stop telling “moral” stories. To Jaya’s horror, Rhea wanted “horror” stories!

When Jaya checked up with our daughter Priya, she said, “Rhea has just heard the word horror from friends and does not have the concept of horror!” Horror stories were only for the novelty. An essential aspect of this is that Priya ensured that the word fear was never brought into the discussion. It was a necessary lesson not to introduce word fear. A human may learn that feeling at some stage, but children should never be exposed to such feelings.

I will tell you two stories. In our culture, we introduce fear in the minds of children through our behaviour. In India, finding cockroaches and reptiles like a gecko in homes and public places is routine, once in a while. These are harmless creatures, but some families have a culture where the children start getting extremely scared when they see these creatures. My daughter Priya must have been three years old at that time. We had gone to a public library, and I was looking for some book. I suddenly heard a commotion. I turned and saw a biggish cockroach moving towards Priya. All the ladies in the library were scared and making the commotion. I just nodded to Priya, who removed one of her shoes, killed the cockroach and put it in a trash basket.

Story two. A friend had come to our house for a post-dinner coffee at 9.30 pm. There came a phone call which I received. Friend’s daughter was hysterical and said, “Please send my parents back.” I asked her what the matter was. She was a 25-year-old lady, and her twin sisters were 20-year-olds. All were hysterical because a gecko was creeping on the wall. They had taken this trait from their mother. My friend and his wife immediately left without even finishing their coffee.

The moral of the story, I know Rhea does not like “moral” stories now, is not to introduce children to unnecessary fears. But fear is only one feeling I am talking about. Life is like a boxing match or a cricket match. Sometimes you get it on the Chin, but you have to accept it gamely and move on. Every time if you give up or retire when you get hit on your Chin, you will retire from your life very early. Taking it on the Chin is a part of growing up. It is part of the process of slowly becoming malleable, rather than remaining brittle. Ultimately it is your life. There are going to be ups and downs. There will be wins and losses.

Taking it gamely on the Chin could include not being able to take the course you wanted. It could be losing your fiancé to someone else. It could be losing a job or facing a loss in business at a critical juncture in life. It could even be a critical illness or death of dear ones. In terms of metallurgical processes, you can make a thin wire or sheet from a large block of metal only if the metal is malleable enough. It is done by hammering or stretching. The method introduces stress in the metal; take a break and put that metal for tempering or annealing as the malleable metal becomes hard or brittle after hammering. In our lives, whether we like it or not, some situations will put you under the proverbial “situational hammer” that is going to strike you. Tempers are going to be frayed! The automatic reaction is to harden our stance but is it going to help? Using the other meaning of the word temper, we have to put our hardened thoughts into a tempering furnace and become malleable again.

The brittleness will cause numerous damages to the situation and our mind. Friends may pass a nasty remark, without understanding your side. But if you are malleable, it is going to help you. If you are brittle, you are going to be shattered like glass.

Friends, if you are not sure if you are Malleable or Brittle in real life, do not come to a metallurgist like me. Go to someone kind, who shows empathy and is not be judgemental while being a good listener. I had mentioned in a blog published sometime back, how this can be handled.

All of us have that Personal ATM in our life. We should look for that person and try to find the PATM. We go to an ATM when we need some cash. But the money we can withdraw is limited by bank rules and the balance in your account. Friends, do not forget that Personal ATM has an unlimited balance, and you have an active card ready to withdraw. Look around, and you will find yours. The person will guide you to become that rounded and a mature person! And, of course, malleable enough!

PATM blog link is given below.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/our-personal-atm/

 

 

For whom do I write blogs? 

A couple of friends had asked me recently, which is my target audience for the blogs I write? First and foremost, I write for myself and my pleasure! Okay, Okay! I am kidding! But, yes, I don’t write for kids below 15 years. Nowadays, kids mature much earlier than we did. I am sure they will be able to understand what I write. But one thing is for sure, and I don’t write to preach to anyone I just write about my views, my feelings, my opinions and share information that I have.

Subjects of blogs are varied. Some are technologyrelated, but I make sure that they are written without using heavy technology stuff. I share my opinions about life, about traditions. I go into musings and share experiences where I have travelled. It could be Madikeri or Mahabaleshwar, had written a series of blogs called Montreal Musings. I was staying with my daughter in Montreal at that time. I wrote about different things that I observe in life there.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/23/montreal-musings-day-to-day-life-ii/

Sometimes I share travel experiences or titbits! Recently, I wrote a blog about someone who lives in London. The young man is a dentist, and he was down with Covid 19. The idea behind the blog was to share his experience with his illness and recovery. The blog is for every age group. 

I write about souls who depart but have impressed me during life. Some are public figures, and others are those whom I knew personally. These journeys take me through my life; some were my Gurus and Mentors. They taught me a lot in life. When they passed, the blog simply poured out of me. At that time, I realised how much we were connected in life. Manash Sen taught me how to work in the professional life. He had a knack of getting impossible done, from his colleagues. Some were afraid of him, and others were encouraged by him to jump the threshold to succeed.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/mahesh-bhai/

When Maheshbhai turned into an elder brother is challenging to say. He and I had many many sessions at the Aurangabad. He would share about work, personal, technical and the world in general. He used to get upset quickly, sometimes. But he would call a spade a spade. He was the Chairman of the company. But had he erroneously scolded someone, which was rare, he would get that person and magnanimously say Sorry! I still remember that last onehour session at his Mumbai home. He was, what else, Maheshbhai, though struggling with healthWe never wanted the session to get over, but then every good thing has an end! 

I had seen Shashi Kapoor in person twice; I had never met him. Once in early ’70 s in Mahabaleshwar, where he was shooting. Before that in Pune, he was the chief guest of an inter-collegiate singing competition. Since then, I somehow used to have a feeling that I know him personally. He always looked quiet, unassuming type; the internet also gives similar information about him. He was, to me at least, a misfit in the movie industry. His dancing and singing were efficient but unnatural, as fas as I am concerned. His passing also touched my soul. 

Friends, blog writing, takes me into my own world. I won’t claim that it happened from day one. It is my wine or champagne! Of course, I enjoy it in the early mornings and not after a wok day. In fact, now, it has become a part of my daily routine. I have rarely missed my frequency of publishing, even if I am travelling internationally. I get to observe surprising things during these travels too!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/titbits-from-an-inter-continental-dash/

On a flight from Seattle-Toronto-Delhi in the first leg I saw the map displaying reverse direction of travel- this led to a blog Titbits from the Intercontinental dash! There are so many things to see, absorb and share in this world that I never get the typical “writer’s block”! 

It is like going on spin on our own. Way back in late ’80 s, our roads all over India used to be deserted for an hour, when the famous serial Ramayan and Mahabharat were telecast- they were more deserted than they are in today’s pandemic situation. I used to take advantage of the situation to take out my daughter Priya for a spin. A couple of times, we went to purchase a few things. Purchase and the long spin were completed during that hour. With regular traffic, I could have barely managed the purchase. Then a couple of times I had taken Priya for double-decker bus rides- these buses were a recent phenomenon then. The bus was “chartered” by us as there was no one else on the bus!  

For whom do I write? The question comes in mind, again. I started casual blogging in 2011 and a little more seriously since 2014. A lot of water had flown down the bridge during this period. I went through cancer treatment; my outlook towards life became even more liberal. At the same time, without hurting anyone, I express my strong views sometimes. The speed of life had become a little slower. By mid-2018, I almost retired, and I started writing more. During this period, the fifteen-year-olds had become adults so, and the audience kept on adding.  

That reminds me of a joke. Two twenty-year-old young men are chattingOne of them says, “Five years back, my father did not know much about life; he has picked up a lot in these five years!” Similarly, some friends reading my blogs went into the next decade of their life cycles. They became wiser and mature. Some of the blogs which they may not have appreciated then are what they want to read nowSince everybody has fluid thought process, including yours truly, my views and the way I express them changed. (Do I mean to say matured?)  

Many times, in our life, we do not find answers. Our views, our reactions sometimes change like Yo-Yo! Like I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday. He has been running a manufacturing unit for 45 years. He openly shared with me that he is now bored of going through the same thing day after day! It can happen when you are doing something as your lively hood. But when you do something as a hobby, the chance of getting bored is much less. A friend’s son, in the early 30 s, has been reading my blogs for some time. He enjoys it. He corresponds with me occasionally, and we exchange views. He says that he likes some of my blogs which suggest ways of becoming more efficient in work. He also tries to find out ways of finding work-life balance!  

Finding topics for blogs is getting more uncomplicated and more comfortable, what with the current pandemic. So many new things which were never even discussed by humans are happening in front of our eyes. The world we knew on the new year day of 2020, simply does not exist. On resetting, we will get a new avatar of our planet– if in 2019 it was version 2.0, post-pandemic we might be in version 4.0. Who knows 

I only share information and knowledge with others. Let me sign off with an interesting one. The latest trend is to work from home. It is very tiring, and you hardly get any time to relax. In Microsoft, they have been working from home in the US from 1st March; they set up fun meeting sometimes to destress themselves. Their senior officers also take part in such online meetings. One day they kept this program; all those taking part were expected to dress funnily. They also kept their favourite song blaring in the background. Using cell phone lights, they created a strobe effect and had great fun. People miss that light banter they have during coffee breaks or powder room breaks!  

The Times are a-changing! 

There is no grammatical error in the title. Times are a changing is an idiom which was written this way during the 16th century. In some areas of the world, such usage of language is still in vogue! I thought this usage is lyrical 🙂🙂.

Today’s difficult times have never been faced by humanity, ever. The second world war was the last major calamity faced by us, where there was colossal death and destruction. After the war, there have been problems which were much more manageable. Till the beginning of 2020, there was unprecedented growth, poverty alleviation and technological changes. Rate of change in technology has been at breakneck speed in the last twenty years. The post-war period started with two global superpowers, then only one superpower, and then 9/11 happened. The event led to many wars limited to smaller areas. First globalisation occurred in human history during this period, but in recent times even larger countries are looking inwards. Now the whole world is locked down! So nations and people have no choice but to work together, again.

The times are seriously changing because of the lockdown. Things are happening, which we would have never expected to happen. Who would have thought that there will be many online courses available pro bono? Do you know who are offering these courses? Harvard, Oxford and others. BookMyShow is offering bookings for programmes being streamed by NCPA (National Centre of Performing Arts in Bombay) of orchestras and many such events. New York Times is offering four weeks subscription for free- okay it is not free, but it is Rs.100/ for four weeks. It is cheaper than the per month price of Times of India and Sakal print copy. Many organisations and people have realised that the current times need different thinking and solutions. Those who can work from home are busy, but there are many people whose jobs are such that they can’t work from home. In India, Door Darshan has released old popular series like Ramayan, Mahabharat and Circus to other channels too, no charges of course. BCCI has released the rights for famous Cricket matches for re telecast so that people can handle the free time available, better. This free time as per my guestimate will continue up to six weeks and likely to extend further. My judgment tells me that it will remain in areas like Pune-Mumbai area even longer.

I feel that people, in general, are always good; they do not get the opportunities to display their goodness or they are too busy! Companies in India are rising to the challenge. I am collating the data of this goodness juice flowing in our society. In such times of lockdown, it is easy to get depressed. I am accumulating a goodness pot that will help us feel good.

A company in Rajkot, Gujarat developed a ventilator in record time. They have decided to donate their first thousand products to the Gujarat government. Mr Ratan Tata donated Rs 1500/ crores to the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. There are many smaller donations of different denominations flowing into various funds from all quarters. Mahindra & Mahindra put in their efforts and converted their manufacturing facilities to manufacture ventilators, masks and sanitisers. They have also offered Club Mahindra resorts for conversion to temporary hospitals. Besides that, they are supporting many kitchens to give food to stranded migrants.

It reminds me of the reverse migration phenomenon, especially in northern India. Lacs of workers responded to rumours when the first lockdown was declared. As there was no transport available, they simply started walking towards their native place, some a thousand Km away from where they were working. The authorities realised this in a couple of days. They swung into actions and started providing them with food at different locations on the way. Then they coordinated about two thousand buses to help these people to reach home, for free. We talk of going back to roots after spending a lifetime in different states and nations. But I never realised that this urge is so strong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark

That reminds me of Noah’s Ark, the mythical vessel from western mythology. It finds reference in Christian, Jewish literature and is referred to in the Quran as  Safina Nuh! It is the biblical story of a global flood which was supposed to drown the whole world; God saved Noah and others by providing the vessel. Our Noah’s Ark would be our discipline and social distancing.

I had never understood the real meaning of lockdown until my daughter Priya told me a story. She lives in Montreal with her family, and they are also under lockdown. Her daughter Rhea, she is 6 ½, could not go out for a long time since her school closed. Add to this the Montreal winter. The people in Montreal have understood the meaning of lockdown now. So, there is nobody on the roads. Priya and her family live in leafy lanes. Priya took Rhea out for ten minutes, and the spring is just starting. Rhea was so thrilled and happy; she was dancing all the time, and Priya felt that it was as if Rhea was walking on the lovely lane for the first time! I am sure Jaya will also feel the same when the lockdown is over. In our home too, only I have ventured out once or twice in the whole last month.

Another great thing is now one can talk to friends as much as we want. Nobody says that she is busy. If someone does not pick up the phone, now reasons are different. “Oh, I was doing pocha, or I was washing the utensils.” That brings me to the thoughts about how these difficult times have finally made us appreciate the importance of the service providers like maids, cooks, drivers, dhobis. Some of us have treated them not so elegantly. I hope we do it in future. These are simple people and are trying to earn their living. Sometimes they make mistakes, but a few people maltreat them. Please never disrespect anybody, help them to retain their honour and dignity. I want to share their difficulties. Our dhobi called us the other day for his bill plus Rs 2000/ advance. I transferred the money right away. But their requirements are really minimal. When the maid does the floor wiping, we don’t even see what type of mop she is using. Now that we need to do this work, we look for a mop with a handle so that we can do the work while standing- more efficient? But why don’t we provide this to the maid?

As usual, there are good things and bad things, but I hope that the good acts will prevail; and the world will become a much better place after the emergency is over because of the lessons that we are learning. A small percentage of people are breaking the rules, but one bad thing that always comes out even in tough times is the naming and shaming of sects. During the plague of the 16th century, the Jews were less affected due to their cleaner lifestyle. People hounded the Jews in Europe, and many were killed. Jews moved to eastern Europe. During the second world war, the same thing was repeated because the Jews were affluent and had different ways. In Delhi, a similar incident took place against a sect who were stupid and behaved idiotically. The large congregation caused the spread of disease rapidly. But public hounding continues.

Will the changing times bring in the changes? Will society change for the better? For some, this lockdown period is a significant survival struggle, but for many like you and me, it is time for introspection. I feel that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for humans to do the course correction. Let us hope for the best.

Q’s? 

Qs1

When Quand– कधी. Who Qui कोण. Where- – कुठेWhat– Quel– काय 

These words are Q words– the Question words! 

I was talking to my daughter Priya, who now lives in Montréal, CanadaFrench is the first language in the state oQuébec. As a doctor, she must learn French to take her license to practice. Her daughter Rhea goes to a French medium school. Her Husband, Nikhil, works in an IT firm; he is not mandated to learn French, but he knows that it will be useful to know the language. So he is also learning the language. That is how the French language came into the discussion. 

I have considered four commonly used words in three languages English, French, and Marathi, our mother tongue. The surprising part is all these words start with the common letter in each language. Priya told me about the similarity. I liked the coincidence.  

Many times, we face all these questions in life, and I am beginning with “When”. When do we mature in life? When are we able to absorb pressures and changes in life? Probably, never. When we are young, it is straightforward to shout, howl, or cry when you are not able to handle the pressure. Can’t see the momma around shout, cry! She comes running, leaving everything aside. You have enough of whatever you are doing, walk out, consequences are for others to face. 

Our tempers cool down, and we learn to absorb a few pressures that are a part of life even if you don’t like it, but we are never fully prepared for all the events. As you leave home, things start becoming complex as you enter the bad, bad world. You find your way through the maze called life. Next stage is when am I going to settle down, marry, and so on. 

We get marriedraise a family, then we go through the same cycle that we have gone through. At every stage in our life, we face a question when are things going to stabilise? When will I get peace in life? The only time you are at peace is when your life ends!  

Who is the next question that we always have in our life! Who am I? Who is going to support me? Who are you to advise me? Such doubts keep on coming in our mind. When we meet someone new, we introduce ourselves as, “Hi, I am Pramod! People call me Pramod because my parents called me Pramod. But my official name is Shrikrishna. Now that is getting complex. Why a persons official name is something, and the name by which he/she is known is different? It can lead to some funny incidents as I had gone to a meeting in a large organisation. I go there quite often. But they had changed their gate entry rules. When I reached the window, I gave my business cardBut the lady asked me for a driving license as the identity proof. I gave my driving license. The name on the license is Shrikrishna. She refused me entry. I had to talk to the concerned person and change the get entry mentioning my name as ShrikrishnaNow it became even more complicatedThe lady finally went to her boss and showed him my business card and the license. He came out and smiled at me. As he knew me, he smiled and said, “Ok, sir! You may go inside now!” Finally, the mystery is still unresolved. Pramod or Shirkrishna! Who am I?  

From the list above, the word Where has always put me in difficulty, since childhood. In school days, we would go out to play in the evening. Sometimes we would play cricket, football. At other times we would play Table tennis and Badminton. Reaching home on time was a difficult task. My mother would always ask me, “Where were you?” It meant, “Why are you late?” But I would follow the literal meaning of the word and give different stories every time. In the end, I would go to my mother. I would say, “I am sorry! From tomorrow, I will come on time.” I would go try to embrace her, but she would smile and push me and say, “Go wash. You are smelling of sweat.” Most of the QA sessions would end smoothly. But once in a couple of weeks, these sessions ended in my Father taking over from my mother and then…. 

I tried a similar stunt of coming late a couple of times after I got married. But nobody had told me the consequences of coming late when one is married. Starting within four weeks of marriage, I am at home five minutes before the expected time! 🙂🙂 

The next complex word in life is “Where”Where is my English notebook? Where are my trousers? These and such questions were raised regularly by me in younger days. Not that I have changed much, but now I have learned to locate the missing stuff discretely. In younger days, the question was meant to prod my mother to help me. But after marriage, one does not get generous help as mothers give. 🙂🙂  

The question “Where” is sometimes ignored. Other times the response is, “When are you going to be neat? Why don’t you keep your stuff in the right place?” In the end, the better half will still be generous and keep the missing stuff on the table again discretely.  

In olden days while looking for addresses and locations, Where was the question that was asked many times before we finally located the place. But now the communication between people has reduced, and Google baba is adding to itBut let me tell you, sometimes Google baba is not as smart as we think!  

“What” is the last word from the list. By now, you must have already thought “What the hell is Pramod writing about?” “When” is he going to stop writing?  

By now you folks must have understood that the meaning of words, question words changes with context. For me, this was more of a fun blog. The mere coincidence that three languages have the same first letter for four different question words in the respective language encouraged me to write the blog. would now like to study the science of etymology, the science of words. In the future, you will read more on this subject. Cheers!  

 

Economy, Development and Job Creation!  

Economy world over is going through flux for different reasons — many of them the old ones, and some of them the new ones. People know about the old reasons like inflation, recession, stagflation, cyclic issues, and so on! But sometimes I think we all forget a significant game-changer. We have forgotten that there is a big technological onslaught going on.

One of the significant parameters that indicate the good health of the economy is Job Creation. When job creation is good, the economy is supposed to be in Pink of the health. Is it so? To me, this is old thinking. Technology has already started disrupting job creation. In the last couple of days, I had two experiences which made me ponder about the job creation aspect. Political parties, especially those in opposition, all over the world, make significant noise about lack of job creation, blaming the government. But it is not as simple as it looks.

I read a news article today. It was about passports issued by Pune Passport office. They issued four hundred thousand passports (four lacs) in the year 2019. If we consider 250 working days in a year, it comes to 1600 passports a day. It was possible because of computerisation. The system works very efficiently. How many people would have been required if everything was done manually? Five times more? It is just a guess. The passports received by people are flawless. I have hardly heard any complaints about the errors. Sixteen hundred passports in a day are a lot of passports. The software system has been scaled up very well. Will the system need more people? No! The number of people employed in future will not proportionately increase. More passports indicate more travel, which means more financial activity.

The above example indicates that primary documents like Aadhar, driving licenses, Vehicle Smart cards will involve people. But their further usage will require systems and not people. Digi locker is a facility created by the government where all the mentioned primary documents can be “officially” stored. The system starts with our Aadhar card. Once the Aadhar card is validated, other documents can be “pulled” from other government records for storing at one place. Whenever police authorities need us to show these documents, now we can legally display our Digi locker. We need not carry the original documents with us. A software system has achieved it. What happens to new jobs? Automation creates very few jobs.

I am not even discussing how many jobs will be lost when Electric Vehicles are on roads in large numbers.

So, what lies in future for the young gang? Luckily, we are out of the race now! Consider the medical field. Machines will correctly diagnose using the X-rays, CAT Scans, MRI. The devices will give options for the treatment that the patient can take. Assume that the final diagnosis is to perform a bypass.

Read this article about what can happen in future.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50857759

Now the human doctors come into the picture. She will sit with the patient and the family. She knows the family background and financial status. She also knows the patient is 80 plus with frail health. She may give the option and suggestion to the family to let go. The machines cannot provide such advice. Here the emotions, the family background and such aspects are involved. The robots cannot replace such jobs.

In future, what is going to happen about jobs is a fascinating study. What work can machines perform and which only humans can accomplish is going to be tricky to judge. We are going to see robots going to do more and more work, but these devices are going to have limitations too!

Truck driving, stocking warehouse etc the machines can accomplish. Amazon is already using such trucks and automated warehousing systems. In coffee shops like Barista, Café Coffee Day and Starbucks robots can make the coffee. But there will be a few employees needed to explain to customers who are not familiar with such systems. We already see self-checkout counters in large departmental stores. Such stores have a single person available per ten counters to help people.

At Montreal airport recently, when we entered the immigration area on arrival, there were fifty-plus machines. A group of people could get checked on a single device. The first question asked was how many of you are checking out? On giving details, the machine scanned those many passports. Then we answered the questions, and the machine took our photos. A print out came out after we were done. It had requisite details. Only one person was standing in the end, to check the printed document, which was one per group! Work was done. Where are the jobs? Where is the job creation? If the traffic increases, more machines will be added! Why the Quebec government is not adding new posts; the opposition politicians will raise this question!

You go to your favourite bar! Your bartender will make the usual drink, stirred not shaken! For five minutes nobody will talk. He would look at you. He will then ask, “Hey, Bob! What is wrong? You don’t look happy today?” At that instant, you will open out and start telling the bartender your sob story; like how your boss bypassed you for a promotion. How you hate him and so on! A robot also can make your favourite drink by face recognition technology. But would you tell your sob story to a robot?

Now let me explain what humans will keep on doing better than the robots for a long time to come. How our educational system can play a role in developing humans who cannot be easily replaced by machines.

The first point is the emotion. Emotion plays an essential role in human communication (the physician sitting with the family, or that bartender interacting with Bob). Interaction is critically involved in virtually all forms of nonverbal communication and empathy. But more than that, it also plays a role in helping us to prioritise what we do, for example helping us decide what needs to be attended to right now as opposed to later in the evening. Emotion is not only complex and nuanced, but it also interacts with many of our decision processes. The functioning of emotion has proven challenging to understand scientifically, and it is difficult to build into an automated system.

Next point is context. Humans can easily take context into account when making decisions or having interactions with others. Context is particularly interesting because it is open-ended. Every time there’s something new, it changes the context in which we operate. There is a problem for machine learning, which works on data sets which were created previously, in a different context. Thus, taking context into account, the way bartender can understand your moods, is a challenge for automation.

The human ability to manage and utilise emotion and to take into account the effects of context are critical ingredients of critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, adaptive learning, and good judgment. It has proven very difficult to program machines to emulate such human knowledge and skills.

These are the very skills that employers across industries expect in job candidates. The candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems may be more important than his or her undergraduate major.” The employers seek candidates who have other sorts of “soft skills,” such as being able to learn adaptively, to make the right decisions and to work well with others. These sought-after abilities, of course, fit perfectly with the sorts of things that people can do well, but are and will continue to be challenging to automate.

All of this suggests that our educational systems should concentrate not merely on how people interact with technology- how they write code, but also how they can do the things that technology will not be doing soon. These are the skills that are hardest to understand and systematise, and the powers that they give — and will continue to provide —humans an edge over robots.

So in future, new job creation can not be a major criterion to indicate the health of the economy!

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!