Musafir Hoon Yaaro!

I have to continue my journey! मुझे चलते जाना है

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This is a beautiful song sung by Kishor Kumar from the Movie Parichay released in the year 1972. The song depicts a wanderer who says, friends “I am a wanderer, I have no home and I have no fixed whereabouts! So I keep moving from place to place.” Human life also can be described as that of a wanderer, we keep on moving through different stations in life, we keep on meeting different people in life! Our destination is defined by the destiny but our path is unknown to us!

Thoughts about relationships came to my mind when I spoke to my old friend Naresh, maybe after a gap of  six to eight  months. Naresh used to live in Pune, most of his career, and we hit it off from day one! It was Naresh’s birthday yesterday when we spoke and he was abroad! We started chatting and there was really no end to it. After a long chat, he said that he will call me when he comes back to Gurgaon, where he now lives. He said that since most of his prime years were spent in Pune, he has remained a Punekar! In those days he would come to my office for a cuppa at least once in a month, and we would chat and chat about all subjects on the Tera Firma! Relationships form, they continue, but they also change and wither over a  period, in most cases! This reminds me of a Sanskrit saying which is a very pragmatic way of looking at life.

 “यथा काष्टम काष्टम

The meaning of this saying is that, in the sea, wooden logs bump into each other, stay together for some time and in most cases go away from each other, never to bump into each other again. Same is the story of our lives! In our lives we meet so many people, in school, college, work and on personal level. We get to meet some new people through marriages that take place in the family. We meet people during travel. If we take a review of people we have met, a very small percentage continues to be in touch infrequently or frequently in a few cases. In some cases, though the contact is infrequent, relations remain warm as if we have been meeting regularly.

Of course, the life long friend who can be your THE friend is your spouse. This also is part of destiny. My move from Mumbai to Pune for engineering education was a major part of destiny as I met Jaya in Pune, at the college. I simply continued to live in Pune. Rest as they say is history. With such a strong main base of relationship, life’s complexities  become so much easier to handle.

It is pure destiny that I met Naresh! But there are people who have touched your life in more than one way. Some of them are not in this world but I am lucky that many are still around. The first such friend  I remember was a friend called Ranganekar. I was in 11th grade. During summer holidays I used to go to him a couple of times a week, he used to stay  far from my home. He was to go to his native place, and we said bye for the time being. I went to that area to meet other friends after a few days. I was shocked to know that on the same evening when we said bye, he had died in an accident while crossing a road! That was my first shock in life and it took me some time to overcome the grief, he was such a good chirpy friend!

For natural reasons, I am not going to share the names of friends, who are still around, as I share my journey with friends. A friend Dilip was my Mumbai friend, partner in all crimes when we were in adolescence. We stayed in same building and would play all games together. I was slightly better than him in sports, in studies we were equally naughty! Our relationship continued till he died at the age of around 50 plus. Final ten years, unfortunately our communication was infrequent and I still regret the same. Another Dilip was from Pune; we became very close while we worked together for some years. We always took work seriously but never took ourselves seriously. We used to eat each others food many times at office! We were in touch till he died, regularly though infrequently. I had spoken to him a few days before he died; luckily that day was his birthday when I spoke. Dilip was always smiling and his laughter was booming! Dilpya, I miss you man!

My first friend that I remember, was from time when we were in pre KG. We reunited in school and continued together in college. Later he moved to the US and continues to live there. Whenever I contact him he responds but unfortunately he never does it on his own. He was an introvert anyway! Another friend is really a masterstroke of destiny. We were in same batch at engineering college but had never met before. First time I met him was four years back and now we have become life time friends. Last one is of course, my brother, my critic, my Jigri dost. We must have a chat session at least once in a week, minimum. Why we were not in touch with each other since college days, only God can say! But we are making up for the lost time.

Six years of my college I lived in hostels! The stay in hostel creates a special bond. With some friends I have been in touch right through my life. When we meet, we start talking as if we had met on the previous day. Some of the hostel friends I met after 45 years, but again we felt as if there was never a break. Now we all regret how much we have missed while “living” life!

RailTrack3

Our life is like the  railway system. We catch  a train to a destination. We meet the people on the that journey, but there are unplanned stations in between. There are complex track changes too, as shown in the photo graph above. Situation in life sometimes forces us to get down at stations on the way, and then we change tracks. What journey we will take with whom, is decided by destiny and nurturing of relationship from both sides. In some cases, it so happens that the journey together continues for long, long years, like meeting every day on local trains of Mumbai. But here it so happens that the co passenger takes a fast train and you may end up taking a slow train.

Mind you, we know when the train is changing the track; we also have an inkling that the train is passing by, we hear the whistle of the train passing you, as heard in the video above. Things are changing but in busy life sometimes people miss the indication given by the whistle. Hurtling fast train is the epitome of the journey called life! People start getting more comfortable on the new path; maybe its inevitable to leave the monotony of Mumbai local trains. It’s natural that people change path and the destination!

Even in the days of great social media revolution like FB, WA the work overload does not leave enough time for the passenger on the fast trains to connect with passengers left behind, their speeds simply don’t match. The photo of the track changing mechanism indicates that there are many such different paths available and in real life they are infinite!  Chances of connecting with each other become remote. But memories still remain like I said in my previous blog!  But don’t forget the lyrics and keep moving, that my friends is nature!

 मुसफ़िर हूं मै यारो

ना घर है ना ठिकाना

 

Work is Worship!

Everything else is after WORK is completed!

                                          श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी हिरवळ दाटे चोहिकडे, 
                                          क्षणात येते सर सर शिरवे क्षणात फिरुनि ऊन पडे 

These are the first two lines of the famous poem श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी by celebrated Marathi poet बालकवी ठोंबरे, Balkavi Thombare! The poem is the celebration of the month Shravan from the Hindu Calendar. Every child who had taken education in Marathi in our times knows at  a least a few lines, even today. It has become part of Marathi folklore.

We were going out somewhere, while entering the car a drizzle started. Today we went out a couple of times and both times it was same. In one moment there was rain, the next moment a heavy shower followed by a peek a boo by the Sun! I said to Jaya, “This is typical weather for the Hindu calendar month of Shravan.” I hummed the above lines; but then I remembered that currently the Hindu month going on is Ashadh! This is due to Adhik Mass in Hindu calendar. This calendar is based on Lunar month which is 29 ½ days of our normal calendar. To compensate for this loss of days, every two and half years we have Adhik Mass.

I am good with this but there is a major issue. All Hindu festivals and everything related to the God is celebrated as per Hindu calendar. The palkhi, (https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/palkhi-the-great-tradition/ ) the Palaquin procession terminates on Ashadhi Ekadashi i.e. 11th day of the month of Ashadh. This is where the issue starts. Large number of farmers take part in the procession and the total time taken by Palkhi to reach Pandharpur is 21 days. It is expected that they complete their work in the farms and take some time off for Palkhi. For a couple of years Palkhi starts in 3rd week of June and if there is Adhik Mass then it starts later in July as per Gregorian Calendar. Our seasons are discussed based on Gregorian calendar. So, rain gods follow the Gregorian calendar. Now, how can farmers be away from work, in major part of July, when they need to be on the farms?

Palkhi, bhakti, pooja all these things are fine but if the appropriate things are not done at the right time on the farms, the produce can get damaged, quality can go down! In fact, all the crop could go bust! How to do the right things? Has this ever been discussed in farming community? The farming depends on vagaries of weather, market conditions, disease and many such variables! So, if they remain away from the farms at the wrong time, then I shudder to even think what can happen. 21 days is not a small time to be away.

This brings us to other subject on the topic of farming. The subject that is being discussed much is the excess production in certain areas of farming. In many areas production is quite high and ever-increasing population also is not able to consume it. Let us look at Sugar. Since sugarcane is a cash crop, everybody wants to grow sugarcane. Our annual requirement of sugar is 25 million tons and we have produced 30 million tons. What to do with this sugar? International market is also weak hence the price that one gets is also not remunerative. Strikes? Government support? Government cannot support everything.

Same thing is happening in animal husbandry. Once people realized that milk production is a good business, a large number of people went into that business. They got themselves imported Jersey animals which produce a lot of milk compared to local animals. They took loans and when the going was good everything was fine. Large number of cooperative organizations have come up which collect the milk, process it and bring it to market. Excess milk is converted into milk powder. Milk collection has become quite organized but India has fully market driven system. Government may give some support but ultimately it is buyer and seller system. Excess production and supply will put the rates under pressure and which currently has happened. Solution? People are being misguided by the so-called leaders. They have asked the people to throw away the  milk every day and not give it to collection centers. With this, endless loop is formed where farmers lose more money.

Is it the way to do it? In many European countries milk business is under stress, most of the time. A few farmers do commit suicides but there is no suicide epidemic. They protest in a different way. They take their cows in large numbers to the departmental stores as a protest. They create traffic jams by bringing the tractors in the cities with the purpose of creating jam. In a factory in Japan there was some labour dispute going on for a long time. With no solution in site, the workers resorted to a novel method of protest. They kept on manufacturing shoes only for the left foot. After one week of this protest, a solution was reached. There was only temporary loss in sell but production did not suffer.

In the initial phase of independent India, there was shortage of everything. Food, Milk, Grams, Grain, you name it, we had shortage. We were forced to accept low quality grains, generally fed to animals in the US, as we had no choice. In last 40 years we have made a lot of progress. Go to any market, go to any shop. We see abundance of everything. The way we survived shortages, we have to learn the art and science of handling excesses also. It is the right balance of keeping manufacturing expenses under control, at the same time we should manage to keep final selling price under control, to keep inflation under control.

This needs a lot working together and the system must try and become independent of government support. After all government is you and me. If one hand is paid in excess then the other hand will also need money to buy costly stuff. It is all fine to say that it is middlemen or agents who are the culprits. But the major markets for everything are towns and cities. Reaching produce to the right market at the right time, needs planning, logistics, storage which many a time has to be cold storage. Even with great storage and logistics, Europe is supposedly sitting on big mountain of butter. Similarly, India is sitting on a mountain of milk powder.

It is easier said than done. Farmers have no time and money to do the marketing of their crop. This also needs money.  As far as Maharashtra is concerned, we don’t see problems in farmers from Konkan and Western Maharashtra. The milk problem appears to be problem of more developed society same as in Europe. But in eastern and north eastern areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada these problems and suicides are in large numbers. Experts need to study the reasons for this and find out the real problem behind this. It could be something social, it could be something to do with aspirations. It may be related to way the people think.

In the society, these upheavals keep on happening but the so called advanced communities keep on advancing socially in each generation. They don’t depend on government support and dole all the time. Till the time, societies don’t follow the basic ethics of “Work is Worship”, there will be problems galore. We see that in the  large cities like Mumbai and Pune, any person who wants to work has work. The fighters among them move up fast in the society, not those who want support, all the time, generation after  generation! Don’t make looking for support from someone your habit. Find your own solution, your own path. Take part in Palkhi if it is in June as hundreds of years seems to have proven that during this period basic work for the farms is done and end June and beginning July is a lull time! By all means, during your farming schedules, follow Hindu rituals but not Hindu calendar!

World Class!

Become World Class! It is doable!

One keeps on hearing the word World Class, these days! What is World Class anyway? World Class means (an activity, a thing or a person of or among) the best in the world! The world is full of people, with thought processes or activities where someone is trying to do something or to produce something even better than its quality level at that time. This thought process came in my mind when my friend Shyam visited another friend Vijay’s manufacturing unit. Shyam said that Vijay has created a World Class facility. 

How does one become world class? How does one create World Class facility or products? Simply by being world class. To become world class, one needs to be open to the idea that there is someone always better than you! There is always something better than what you produce. You need design, product or service, consistency, ability to convince people to buy ideas or products at the price such that the organization remains continuously and highly profitable. The reason for this is that world class companies reinvest large % of their profits into R&D! This indicates continued resolve to improve on quality. Apple and Nvidia are such companies which are relentlessly going for better and improved products. They reinvest huge amounts in R&D. Another thing such companies do is to change their thought process 180 degrees, if required. Classic example is Microsoft. Once they realized that they will not be able to compete with Android and IOS, in cell phone arena, they changed their policies in such a way that they call themselves company making software products which are support systems for other Software companies. 

Talking of Vijay’s organization Connectwell, he was always thinking big and bold for more than 20 years. 20 years back the company was much smaller, but they were bold and could see eye to eye with large world class players. How did they do it? They have been taking part in Hannover Messe, exhibition of industrial products since 1997. This has been a huge investment. This shows that they have been profitable, bold and confident! I am sure initially they must have felt a bit down, looking at international competitor’s products. But they continued to take part with better products; I am sure the competitors must now be getting weary. Vijay’s continued and relentless drive to become and remain world class makes his company work harder, smarter and sharper!  

As against these, companies like TCS & Infosys have chosen to follow a different a path. I am not blaming anyone but it is a path that they wanted to choose. Recently, they used their cash kitty of 2 to 3 billion US dollars to buy back shares from public. If there were a threat of some other company buying them out, then it would be a smart strategy. But I feel that they don’t know what to do with the stock pile of dollars, they did not probably know how to profitably invest this kind of money to reinvent themselves. They probably want remain followers, instead of becoming leaders. There are Indian companies who have shown the hunger to become world class. Tally and Quick heal names come to the fore. They have relentlessly done things and kept their flag flying high with quality of their products!  

You don’t become World Class just like that. It is the people who make companies and societies World Class. Taking example from cricket, in the early 70’s Sunil Gavaskar, World Class diminutive Indian cricketer looked into the eyes of the opponents. He created a culture that Indians can become World Class. He was bold in his game but was a gentleman too! In early 80’s, after India won three consecutive major tournaments in three years, an Australian reporter asked him in an interview the secret of India’s success. Gavaskar asked the reporter, ” Have you seen the movies Jaws 1 and Jaws 2 and so on? ” Reporter was confused and said, ” I have not understood what you are saying.” Gavaskar said tongue in cheek, ” India’s success was same like Jaws, Luck 1, Luck 2 and Luck 3″. Gavaskar had in him to take on the world. Normally he showed it with his bat. 

Sachin Tendulkar story is even better known as he became a World Class act from the age of 16. He again was diminutive but his motto was practice, practice, and practice. He was never afraid to attack deadly bowlers looking into their face! He gave nightmares to the world class spinner Shane Warne! Sachin simply wanted to be world class. From these small islands of Gavaskars, and Tendulars India is becoming a super power in cricket and has created an assembly line of World Class players and the team! This is how nations become World Class. 

Whenever I travel internationally using Delhi or Mumbai airport, I can see that we have World Class infrastructure. Getting into other airports, I feel that India is getting better and better, in islands of supremacy. But this drive has to start in people, should percolate to more and more people. With success, we get confidence and confidence leads you to become World Class.  

What has people got to do becoming a World Class nation? Everything! If people are World Class, the nation can become World Class. To become World Class not everybody has to be World Class, but everybody in the system must be disciplined, knowledgeable in what they do. They should be passionate about what they do. It could be a policeman, it could be a pedestrian crossing the road. If you don’t cross roads by following basic discipline, the system gets chaotic. A construction site worker should be proud of his method of pouring concrete, the planner should be proud of the way he has planned. A grocer should be proud that he is not cheating his customers, profits will come automatically if he gets more and more customers because of quality of products he sells and quality of service he offers. His quality of service will improve only when all people in the shop are proud of the work they are doing.  

I will share with you how confidence about ones own quality helps. A team from India was to travel to Japan to visit an organization. They asked the hosts how much buffer time they should keep after traveling by Shinkansen before catching a flight. They got a reply that they need not keep any buffer because Shinkansen never gets late. It gets late only if  there is a major earthquake.

The system becomes World Class when the lowest denominator in the system becomes World Class, when the lowest denominator is proud of what he or she is doing! I see this attitude in many places world over, people will go out of their way to please the customer. Do we see this in India? Yes,  but only in islands. But for this to become a way of life, attitude of everybody towards public discipline, public cleanliness must change. This is because these are the most visible things in any society. We do see islands of such places in India but these islands must get connected and become a society of World Class things, services and products. It is Vijay’s of our society who have done it. Connectwell  (http://www.connectwell.com/global/home.aspx?lang=en&reg=IN) is doing it and I am sure this is passed on to the next generation. If all of us try to make an attempt, to make the small eco system around you, world class, it is doable. You can have surroundings around your home clean and neat; you can make your personal service providers like milkman, newspaper vendor, car cleaner, home support servants do things in a better way. Once they understand that it is doable, they in turn will tell their own eco system how to do things better. How to be relentless in improving quality of what we do, how we do. The chain has to continue.

It is pretty simple. When you wake up every day, tidy up your own bed….. yes, it starts with you. Make it tidy as if your work is going to be inspected every day! And yes, you yourself inspect it. It better be World Class!  

Why, why, why why?

Take last mile efforts to make cities clean and tidy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Virus Bonhomie!

Technology has brought people together! Don’t lose this opportunity to bond for life long!

This blog is about a specific group but I have tried to make it as generic as possible. But it applies to all the groups of friends. 

Once upon a time there were a set of retired people and not so retired people, who lived their life, enjoying their golden period. Things were quite good. They were traveling, enjoying with family and had great time with their grandchildren, once in a while. They had illnesses, they had their anxieties but were game at carrying their burden, gracefully. Of course, the children were around but the there was a small issue, they were around the world, for many. Children and their family was a great solace, once in a year or two years, in some cases after five years! There were WhatsApp messages and Video calls, all keeping them very happy in the winter of life. Everything was smooth, children were very caring; they ensured that there were caretakers available round the clock, if needed. Everything was hunky dory! Once in a while there was a cool breeze and warmth of good old friends. This would come out of blue and kept people gasping as they had gone their separate ways in the journey called life. Friends from the old gang, were expected to meet only once in a while. Yes, these folks were also in college once upon a time; had gangs and great friends!  

A few years back suddenly, a species started appearing on horizon! It looked like UFO, nobody initially knew what it was. On searching Google, people came to know it was called Bonhomie! (Oxford meaning of Bonhomie is cheerful friendliness; geniality.) As normally happens, nobody was sure what really was happening. These people realized that there were two naïve folks who were bringing in an unknown creature called Bonhomie in their lives. Thanks to WhatsApp, FB and modern technology in general, things started moving really fast. The group of people was a little confused; they were not aware that they were getting converted into “group of friends, close friends!” The thought itself was breath taking. Am I going to meet my long-lost friends again? Am I going to meet Ashkya, Dhanya, Panya, Dindya, Sharya again after so many years? What fun we had when we were together in college? 

Lists were made, groups were created thanks to technology and two idiots! Phone numbers were shared and, in some cases, photos were exchanged. Calls were made and demeanor of all the people enjoying golden period slowly started changing. People at home were surprised and took some of them to doctors. Doctors said that there is new virus spreading fast, especially in people who are enjoying golden period. There was simply no cure to that. Sometimes these people show signs of Euphoria. But let them be. This virus can actually cure many ailments in that age group. Of course, Bonhomie is not a cure all. It cannot cure cancer, heart attack and stroke! But this virus is an antidote to overcome anxieties created by such illnesses. Anxieties in life, worries in general, feeling of loneliness!  

Finally, the D day arrived for the group to meet! Meet they did at their favourite place near the river! Words like Mithi, Salya, Jadya, Taklya, Lambya were thrown in with gay abandon. There were slaps on the back. There were bear hugs, and of course some tears of joy (which I have even while writing this piece too!) And the party started. There would be formal meets maybe twice in a year. Friends started meeting in small groups; old gangs came together! Bonhomie virus was spreading and parties started in Mumbai too! Small picnics, big parties, idli/dosa at favourite joints was the name of the game.  

As the gang became closer, there started good old fights and skirmishes like those from olden days, as if they were young adults again. The resolution in all the cases was always virtual or sometimes by a phone call. Group magazine started to keep bonding, it died its natural death over a couple of years. Photo albums were created to be shared with all but this also stopped after a period, a natural thing. But after every meet, there was a only one discussion, “When are we meeting again?” And the party continued. Joy was spread among friends regarding achievements of next generations, some of them in studies, some in art, some in painting. Travel photos and experiences were shared and advise taken from others for next holiday.  

Honestly, things were too good to be true! But bonding continued. There was sharing of sorrow due to demise of common friends. There was real enjoyment when some long-lost friend suddenly started meeting again; then a friend started sharing his old passion, paintings. He started getting time for his passion and made everybody’s life all the more enjoyable by sharing his art. Everybody looked forward to his paintings.  

I am all for a healthy world but started getting jittery that our group was traveling in the direction of destroying the virus of Bonhomie. This is one virus that I want to be alive all the time. Google was searched again. Google explained that there was a strong anti-dote, for this virus, called EGO. The group was slowly managing to infuse this anti-dote on a daily basis. Some friends were getting worried, some were overwhelmed. Some were relentlessly doing it. One friend joined only to infuse this dose. Advise of spin doctor was taken. The Doctor said that the virus of Bonhomie remains healthy with a regular dose of a vitamin called communication both verbal and written. The doctor suggested to reduce the communication for some time, to find out if his judgment and treatment suggested was correct.  

Reduction of this vitamin indicated that doctor was right. There were hardly 2/3 friends, who showed interest in checking out if monthly meet was ON! The experiment continues. But the spin doctor also suggested a communication by way of a big write up, which sometimes kick starts the rejuvenation of virus Bonhomie!  

Friends, don’t let this virus die. You will know it’s importance after it goes into coma. Instead of current two idiots, there can be 2/3 additional idiots who will nurture this virus. If not on first Sunday, friends can meet on second Sunday, at a different location, at a different time. Suggest whatever you think will keep the virus kicking! We all have a large stock of anti-dote EGO. Just dispose it off! Throw it away. This is true for all the remaining life of any person young or old, man or woman. Have fun, nurture friendships. God has gifted us three great things. The nature, the family and the friends. You cannot destroy nature because it is self-sustaining and self-correcting. But other need to be handled carefully, they come with a label “Fragile! handle with care”!  

But rest assured that two idiots will not rest till the Bonhomie virus is kicking in again!  

 

Good Old Days!

Whose Good Old Days are better?

This is one term that is frequently used in many conversations. Some use it nostalgically, some use it with heavy heart, some use it as a passing reference. It is the emotion behind it, that is important. All of us have a past as we grow old. Some have 20 years of past, some have 40 years of past and some 60 years of past! Being nostalgic about your “Good Old days” is natural! It is fun, it’s  joy, its pure nostalgia! These are your precious memories which can never be taken away! They open the door to your personal life history, they open the door to the history of the society and the nation, and to the World at that particular time. When we think about “Good Old Days”, we open a small window but how far we are able to see and enjoy, depends totally on our way of looking at things.

Those who enjoy “Good Old days” nostalgically are emotional persons, those who remember “Good Old days” with a heavy heart probably remain grooved in those times. Those who make passing reference of “Good Old days” are not very emotional about life memories. This is of course an observation and I am not commenting what is right and what is the correct way of looking at things. Nor am I passing any judgment! But what really are the “Good Old days”?  

To me “Good Old days” are bygone days. To me today’s times are my “Golden Days”! But the beauty is “Youthful days” of today become “Good Old days” may be 40 or 50 years hence. So, each of “Good Old days” from different decades have their own charm, their own scent, their own beauty! My “Good Old days” are no better or worse than someones “Good Old days”!  

Humans have different ways of looking at life, enjoying life at different age! Each decade probably changes human perception about life, their way of looking at life! In the childhood, life is simply fun and fantasy; it is a time when one leads a very protected life. The entry into adulthood brings out different emotions, exposure to different pleasures and professional studies and sometimes real bad world. Fun is a major part of this growth. Many times, it is more fun than serious things. Generally, “Good Old days” are this phase of life for everybody because they are lively, fun filled and adventurous.  

The current decade, which is Golden Period for me, is going to be “Good Old days” for my grandson Suyash in future. He is in the phase of becoming an adult. He studies hard, he enjoys hard. I am sure he has fun and he has growth pangs. For him travel from US, where he lives, to India, is an adventure. He is now old enough to understand that world is not the same in various different parts. His place of stay at Sammamish near Seattle in the US, is a serene location with lots of trees, lots of water bodies and lots of clouds and a lot of rain. So, when he travels to India, it is lots of noise, lots of people but a lot of family members.  

With modern technology proliferation, the growth of technology in both India and the US is similar and there is not a big chasm between the two places. But chasm in two eras, my “Good Old days” and my golden days is simply breath taking. In my “Good Old days”, Mumbai, where I grew, was a reasonably peaceful big city with a lot of activities. But when I moved to Pune, where I have been living for 50 years, things were drastically different. People would move about on bicycles, using horse driven carriages; whereas in Mumbai there was a fairly modern train system and a bus system. In my “Good Old days”, there were a few major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata; other places were towns or villages. Intercity travel was rarity and air travel was non existent. Those were the days of shortages and rationing of food! Eating an apple was considered luxury, the same as owning the car. But I enjoy the memories and nostalgia of “Good Old days”.  

Today Suyash is growing up in the times of plenty of everything. Plenty of money, plenty of gadgets, plenty of cars and plenty of everything in general. With this base, he is growing up with big dreams, and looking forward to even better future. In my “Good Old days”, we also had plenty of dreams and plenty of fun same as Suyash has. But probably, on the scale of 10, my dream size was 3 and Suyash’s dream size could be 7 or 8. So when Suyash becomes nostalgic 40 years hence and yearns for his “Good Old days”, can our “Good Old days” be compared? Answer is both yes and no. No, because the base level at both times are totally different, they simply cannot be compared. Yes, because the nostalgia does not depend on tangibles. So, the base simply does not matter.  

The emotional person can enjoy best of the both worlds and enjoys memories of “Good Old days”; the same person also enjoys today’s good modern, but a bit of hectic times. The person who keeps stuck in “Good Old days”, enjoys in remaining entrapped in those times but is not able to enjoy today’s times. For The less emotional person, nothing really matters.  

When I retrospect about “Good Old days”, I realize that general health and happiness in those times were not so good. Society in general did not have zest or drive as most people used to struggle to survive. My youthful age masked all such struggles, which anyway I did not understand at that time. I am quite sure the “Good Old days” are always the same in every era when intangibles are compared. But when tangibles come in picture, it will be difficult to judge which era would give more joy. I feel that my golden days are better days than “Good Old days”. To me probably, this aspect will keep on improving with time, all the time. In my “Good Old days” we used to have Kaware Ice Cream. Oh, but Baskin Robbins and CCD and Barista today…. You know what I mean! Of course I am nostalgic about Kaware Ice Cream but…… 

Another View Point! The Native place!

My controversial take on “Going to Native Place”!

This is a very emotional and controversial subject I have touched and some of my friends may not agree with most of what I have written. But I have just tried to understand the conflict in minds of the people, that are tough to handle. 

Most of my life has been spent in cities of Pune and Mumbai with small breaks in between, when I was very young. So, I do not have the concept of “going to native place or गांव  or  मुलुख!” These two places have been my gaon! Pune is the native place for me. I have many friends who have their native places, which are much smaller towns or maybe tiny villages. So, I do not have the experience of going to the native place, like these people have. I am sure it must be nostalgic, lovely feeling. I hear many stories of these places, in some cases 50 years old and in others 30 years old. I was trying to imagine how wonderful it must be to have such memories. 

But the pragmatic guy in me poked me and said, “Hey, Pramod you also have a native place. But the only difference, between those who “actually” have a native place to go and you, is that you have lived almost all your life in your native place! Probably this is the reason you do not become nostalgic when talking about your native place!” Remembering olden days, enjoying the memories of old times is the best thing that a human has, which nobody can take away, ever! It’s must be fun and emotional  to go down the memory lane and enjoy oneself. I was talking to my friend Ram, who has his native place, a small town. He recently traveled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualized. He was nostalgic, he remembered many old things right from his grandfather’s time.  

The difference in the “native place” of others and my native place is that many of my friends from olden times are still in my native place, in fact some of them are still living in the same dwellings. I have seen my native place change in front of my eyes! Whereas in the “native places” that come up in discussion have changed from villages to much bigger villages or towns. Towns have become much bigger towns. When I think about this, I always felt how people feel when they go to native places that have lost many things to Time! How many of the old friends live there? If they have lived there all their lives, then have they changed with time? Do you have things common with them after 50 years? Are these things relevant today? 

I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singh, a Gyanpeeth award winner. The Poem is “Gaon Ane Par”!  (“On arriving at my native place”) First few lines of the poem are  

अब आ तो गया हूँ 

पर क्या करुँ मैं? 

एक बुढे पक्षी की तरह लौट-लौटकर 

मैं क्यों यहां चला आता हूँ बार -बार ? 

Below lines are my humble attempt to translate in English, the crux of what Kedarnathji has said. 

” I have come back to my native place,  

to do what?  

I keep on traversing here like an old bird,  

why do I keep coming here, again and again”? 

He is confused and it is obvious that he is not sure why he keeps on doing this. Are these the same people for whom I come here? He muses further. But when I see them, I need to go back in the old time-frame. These are the same people who are mine or are they mine? I don’t know where they live but why am I insistent that this is my home? 

The confusion in the poet’s mind is what happened in my mind too, about my friends who go to their “native place”. Their old homes where ever they lived, in most cases, do not exist. These have been replaced by new structures and maybe have new ownership. None of their close relatives live there. None of their old friends live there. Except for nature, the sea, the river, the hills everything else has changed. The people whom they see, are unknown to them like what you have in big Metros, the anonymous. School building has changed completely or a business center is built in its place. Landmarks of olden times have simply vanished. So, what do my friends go there for? For the name of that place? The place which has become foreign to what is in their minds!  

I am sure that there will be some nostalgic memories about some very specific things, which still exist. In my case, where I lived in my childhood in Mumbai, the same building still exists and is bit renovated. Families don’t live there anymore and a charitable trust runs an institution in that building. This institution provides low cost stay for people from outside Mumbai who are required to come and stay for medical treatment, a noble cause. But its presence kicks me in the butt and tells me how time has flown. There is zero  chance that someone will even vaguely know me. Will I become nostalgic by just entering those rooms where I lived in my childhood? To me nostalgia is something with a human touch. At least in my case, luckily, the building exists as it was in 1965! 

The poet further meanders with lines, what should I do to make people in the native place feel that I am one of them? They are mine, or are they? For whom I am writing this poem, will they ever read my poem…. should I touch someone, can I hug someone? He has a small fear in his mind. He has become a Dilliwala, a person from Delhi! He is not sure if his “Delhi” version will come in the way of their hug! These and other lines of  the poem have beautifully brought out the conflicting thoughts of this community of people going to their “native place”. Ram felt that very small percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?  

There is new “going to native place” phenomena due migration to different countries. These people and people receiving them in the country of birth, naturally have different viewpoints. But it is painful and slightly embarrassing to know what some people have said about their native place. The well-known actor Priyanka Chopda said the other day, ” What I miss about India, is that I cannot reach the film sets late for work in the USA”, where she works currently! A young 30 something CA, a finance professional in Sydney, Australia said, when asked what he misses about his native country India? He said, ” Next week, I am going to Delhi for a holiday and break these damn traffic signals 30 to 40 times in first two days; I am fed up of straight jacketed life in Sydney”. If these persons were saying these things jokingly then they have a dark sense of humour!  

I can understand nostalgia, old memories and lovely times spent in the native place. But I think one should be more pragmatic about basics. When a lot of time has passed, maybe humans tend to become too dogged in thinking that nothing has changed in the native place. When you were young, your family, your culture of that time (cultures do change with time), your friends of that time, also change from the way you remember them. It is your mother or aunt or elder sister who were giving you the love and the lovely food of those times! So maybe the “going to native place” is the journey like jumping from a plane, using parachute! The thud you hear when you reach the ground is what brings us back to reality!