It’s Never too late, Pradeep!

pradeepgavankar

Our life is about people. It’s about our family, friends, acquaintances, and business associates. There are of course some people whom you meet during your travels! It is difficult to say how and why these relationships go forward in life. But sometimes you wonder why certain relationships did not blossom! Why did they not go to the next level? As usual, when we can’t explain something, we call it destiny. Yesterday 15th January 2019 was an important day in my life.

A couple of weeks back my friend Ram told me that our classmate, Pradeep Gavankar will be in India; he lives in Houston, Texas. I was thrilled when Ram said that another friend Milind is coordinating a lunch meeting with a group of friends so that Pradeep can meet them. I was, of course, thrilled and decided to go to Mumbai for lunch. I had no other work but to meet friends.

The thought of meeting Pradeep, face to face almost after 45 years took me down the memory lane. I had met him last when I attended his marriage. Later on, we were in touch randomly. A couple of times I talked to him on the phone when I had travelled to the USA. There were a couple of email exchanges, but I was always keen to know what was happening in his life.

It is interesting to know how I got in touch with him pre FB and WA days. One day I was surfing on the net, and I came across the photograph of Amol Gavankar. Amol was a student then. When I saw the photo, I saw some similarity with Pradeep. So I wrote Amol an email, “ If Pradeep is your dad then I am Pradeep’s classmate”. A couple of days later Pradeep wrote to me and as I have said that we have been in touch sporadically. Once we discussed about the death of our common friend Dilip Marathe. But still, the communications has remained on and off type. Honestly, there was no reason for this type of contact, but it continued that way.

Yesterday when we met for lunch, we had a lot talk and discuss and update. Let me tell you why I am thrilled. Pradeep and I go years back! We used to be neighbours, when we were in, now what can be called today, as Lower KinderGarten. If I remember correctly, it was a school run by a lady called, Avantika Kelkar, if I am not mistaken! We lived in the western suburb of Andheri in Bombay. I distinctly remember Pradeep and our homes! In late ’80 s of the last century, I had gone to visit another friend Sharad, in that area.

I made a round of the colony where we had our old homes; I was surprised to find that they still existed as old structures (which made me sad!) From Andheri my father was transferred out of Bombay, and I am sure both of us did not even understand the meaning of losing touch. My father later came back to Bombay, and I joined Ram Mohan School in the 7th grade. I lived in an area Dhobi talao, famous for its cricket maidans, and also renowned for brutal killing police officers in 26/11 attack. I started catching G3 bus for school, early morning at 6.15. Somehow I knew that Pradeep was in the same school. On the second day, I met a guy my age on the bus, he also went to my school. He took the bus before my stop. I asked him if he knew Pradeep Gavankar; I had asked this question to Pradeep! It was again the quirk of the destiny that brought us back. We passed our SSC from the school, and both of us joined Elphinstone College! Pradeep stood first in our school in the board exam. Post Inter Science Pradeep joined VJTI, and I came to COEP Pune for engineering. We used to know about each other on and off! I always have this question how did we keep track of people before the Internet? Pradeep invited me for his marriage. I attended it in Bombay.

While in school and later on during education, I used to go to Pradeep’s home in Colaba. It had a lovely terrace, and we used to have the fun, but I don’t remember what used to discuss and play. Later on, they moved to an area called Bombay Central. I visited that home too! I remember that Pradeep’s father was an art professional.

Though we were not in touch all these years, I had a perfect image of Pradeep as a person. The studious (in school he was known as a scholar!), a gentleman, soft-spoken, mature (even in school days) and of course mischievous. When we met yesterday, we were discussing my cancer treatment. He asked me, “Is rest to your throat not recommended? Oh! Sorry, that is out of the question! Nobody can ever tell you that”, he said with a smile!

Pradeep, let me tell you, now that long lost friends have been found, there is no way I am going to let you go missing again. In Cricket parlance, we did have a couple of innings but did not utilise them to score runs. But now in this new innings, that too in our Golden Period, let us not let go each other and have fun! As usual, I will be boisterous about it, and you will enjoy in your quiet fashion.

For records purpose, Pradeep went to the US and Graduate Studies in Civil Engineering area. He is a renowned expert in harbours and other such areas. I am yet to get a full update on what he did Professionally. Rest assured that I am going to fill your inbox with links for my blogs. Pradeep, I know that a human has to write his quota of words during his lifetime. You did much more than what I am doing these days, during your education and professional work. You know that half the time I used to be in punishment mode while in school, standing outside the class! Destiny seems has caught up with me and making me complete the writing quota!

We got ourselves yesterday connected on WhatsApp when Pradeep sent me our photo (displayed at the top) taken during the lunch yesterday, and he captioned it as “Long lost friends!” My reply to him was

“Hey Pradeep, it was great to meet you and chat with you. But it was like we were given the wine for approval  before giving the go-ahead to serve our Dom Perignon! So let us makeup and finish our bottle of wine. I know the cellar is full of many more vintage bottles. Here is a link for word document where links for many of my blogs are given. Choose what you like.”

https://1drv.ms/w/s!Aq4ckSwupy2SmbgiEwplNlSwoIT0qg

I really mean it Pradeep, and my travel to Mumbai yesterday was really worth it! So long friend till my next message or the next call!

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The Genesis of Enigmatic Society!

प्रत्येक वस्तुला जागा

प्रत्येक वस्तू जागेवर

कराल असे तुम्ही

तर कामे होतील भराभर

This is a saying in Marathi that Jaya remembered from her childhood. Renowned social worker Gangutai Patwardhan used to say this! It translates as below.

Each thing has its own place

The thing should always be in its place

If you follow this

All your work will be done quickly

This is exactly what Japanese concept of 5S says. 5S is a method/Japanese concept for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). See the yellow box! The blue box is equally important!

5s-explanation_med_hr

Our society, our lives are like a workplace. Rich and the poor share the same roads and infrastructure. So it is a responsibility of rich, poor and the middle-class to maintain the infra properly, and follow the rules of the society. To me, it is the responsibility of middle-class as their number is large, they are educated and many of them have seen the world.

But the more we change the more we remain the same. I remember when the whole world was holding its collective breath when 1st January 2000 dawned and Y2K was supposed to get things crashing world over, due to the supposed computer glitch. Indian computer companies made a giant-killing by providing a fantastic solution. There were high hopes that in the 21st century finally, India urf Bharat will look forward to getting its deserved place in the world order.

Where are we today at the end of 2018, almost twenty years from the beginning of the new century, but has our society improved? As usual, we have taken two steps forward and three steps backwards. This morning, I was standing in my balcony on my 7th floor home, chatting with my friend Dilip on phone. I saw a scooter stopping in front of a bungalow. An apparently educated lady simply dumped her garbage and drove off. I was observing for the next 15 minutes and saw ¾ more people do the same.

This is a very normal happening in India. We are in Yo-Yo mode all the time, we improve in certain areas and we go back two steps in another area. We have a global company chief in Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi. We have ISRO sending Satellites after Satellites in space. Then we have people throwing their trash as they wish. We have Municipal Corporations dumping drainage water in rivers without processing. Industrial waste is also dumped in rivers without processing any many places. Under the garb of religion, dead bodies are dumped in the river Ganga!

When Anna Hazare started his Journey for Jan Lokpal Bill in the year 2011, not many had given him a chance of getting through without a great struggle, if at all. But one point which almost nobody had budgeted for was the great awakening of the Middle Class because of this movement. This middle-class was to be the vehicle for India’s journey towards “advanced” society.

Who are middle-class people and what is middle-class mentality? I would define a middle-class person as a person, who is like you and me, who is coming up in life. When one heard TV discussions read articles in those times, it was felt as if being middle class was really rude. The intelligentsia on panels was shocked to see the middle class coming on the road to express their views and argue when middle-class was supposed to be docile.

Now that the awakening had taken place, the same Middle class was being blamed as being too vociferous, too impatient, too aggressive and so on. The intelligentsia had hoped that the middle class will always remain dormant and never go against the proven theories of remaining mute. But with new electronic mediums of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS and so on, this group found a way of expressing their views and communicating openly with others.

There is a flip side to this. Not every cause needs Anna’s intervention; the local issues should be handled locally but the onus is still on the middle-class to lead.

You don’t need Anna to get local roads repaired. You don’t need Anna to solve your daily water problems. You don’t need Anna to clear garbage on the roads! Let Anna handle national level issues like Lokpal. But we don’t bother about our own behaviour. We spit betel leaf juice anywhere. We have unique behaviour on the Pune Mumbai expressway. There are two toll stations on the expressway. After each one, there are washrooms. But some of us drive about 5 Km ahead and then urinate in open. Our government has made laws, especially for villages, which ensures that any person who wants to stand for elections must have a toilet at home. People were still found going to their fields for morning ablutions, some men said they felt manly if they used the field instead of using toilets!

While chatting with friends, the subject of “State of our Nation” always comes up. The conclusion is always the same. Everybody is confused. There is a saying in Marathi, “हे असच चालायचं!” Things will never change. Someone I know was a sophisticated trainer in world’s renowned airline. Every Saturday, he would go a Mandir and offer a small container full of oil to a deity. It was poured in an area from where it would go down the drain. I don’t know how much oil was wasted every day; this could have been given to charity instead of wasting it. This is a story of a highly trained engineer. If the so-called educated people take part in such rituals, remain stuck in such beliefs, how will we ever reach the “Developed” state? I have seen many roadside tea stall owners performing a ritual. They brew their first cup of tea for the day and throw it on the ground. I asked a few of them why they did it? I was told that it gives them good luck for the days business. I asked them why not give it free to someone deserving instead of wasting it, they had no answer.

For our country to become “advanced” what needs to be done, I do not know. Every person’s definition of “advanced” will be different. As long as we don’t come out of the mentality of two steps forward and three steps backwards, the so-called advancement is not possible. For the last 15 years, we are showing economic growth of 7 to 8 % year to year. Effects of this growth are visible but our “backward” thinking dilutes this progress. According to me, the middle-class is the growth engine of the nation but this class also still remains in Yo-Yo mode. In technology, in modern methods, the middle class shows the forward thrust; at the same time the rituals, acts of blind faith are celebrated on a much larger scale because now there is money around. Even in today’s times, I have seen a lady, our relative, go into trance during a religious function. She is a normal college educated lady like ladies we meet normally, but still, she went in a trance, which at least I thought was happening only in uneducated class. The blog below gives my thoughts on such events.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

Let me as usual end up on a positive note. We have terrific enterprise, enthusiasm. Our nation is a nation of young people with energy. Let us put this energy to proper use and make sure that we don’t take any backward steps. If everybody folllows the Marathi lines above, then trash will always go in trash bins, vehicles will be parked in their places, roads will not be required to be repaired after every monsoon! We may start “looking” like a developed nation.

Loneliness & Isolation!

Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you. It may be felt more over a long period of time. It is also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by people.

Isolation is being separated from other people and your environment. Sometimes this occurs through decisions we make ourselves, or because of circumstance e.g. doing a job that requires travel or relocation.

loneliness-and-isolation-quotes-2

The above picture shows a positive way of looking at life!

The above two are definitions of two feelings, that human being gets some time in life. This can happen at any age and can happen due to different reasons. There are different remedies to the same. But one thing is sure, these feelings are bad for the humans and earlier humans overcome them, is better. Though age is no bar, chances of this happening at an older age are much more. World over these two feelings are discussed together hence I am also treating them as same but one thing is well proven that these conditions lead to early deaths!

What are the reasons for Loneliness & Isolation?

Though the reasons are many, the most important being living alone, introverted personality, major long-term illness, loss of job and death of the spouse. Some of the reasons I have mentioned are a real shock, like death, to each of us but some are not able to cope.

I will try and separate them into tangible and intangible reasons. I am using this word in a slightly different way. Tangible means perceptible by touch but I am taking it as something for which there is a visible reason, like death.

  • Death of spouse, close family member or a close friend is an event which puts everyone in a state of loneliness for some time. Many of us overcome these shocks within a reasonable period of time but some people take much longer or they need medical or psychiatric treatment. This could be because such people are
    • Born that way, introverts
    • Don’t have close family ties or ties with friends
    • Live away from the family
  • Living alone for various reasons can be is another thing that creates loneliness within us. This can be because of loss of the spouse, a job change resulting in other family members living elsewhere.
  • Some are introverts by nature and find it difficult to meet new people. So, when the people whom you meet regularly, go away from your life, things can become difficult. Some people have a feeling that they don’t belong! They also feel a lack of purpose or meaning in life.
  • Poor physical health, frailty, mobility issues are some of the issues that can lead to the feeling of loneliness. Long-term illnesses and treatment make you feel that you are alone in this world. I was treated for cancer in 2013 end. My treatment went on for three months and rehabilitation was another three months. Luckily my own and my family’s positiveness helped me. In such situations having a reasonably comfortable financial situation is also helpful.
  • Some people have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. This is an illness of the mind. It creates a situation such that there is a fear of rejection from others or feelings of being “different” or stigmatized by society. What happens in such cases is that others in the society do not know how to react to such persons.
  • Inability to participate in activities due to access issues, mobility, illness, transport. This really is an issue which can be easily resolved but you need to take support from people if required. During one of our alumni get together, one of our friends who has very poor eyesight called me to say that he wanted to attend the gathering. I coordinated with one friend who lived in the same area. Our friend really enjoyed the meet!
  • Retirement from work, home relocation, starting out in a new role or community puts some people in difficulties as they are not able to cope up. These changes in life are level two events after death in the family! I know of someone who left his home in Mumbai fifteen years back and stays with his children in Pune and Bangalore. But he still cannot overcome this change simply longs for his Mumbai home.
  • Language or cultural barriers, or reduced connection with your culture of origin is one more reason. This can easily happen in India, especially for older people, when their adaptability is reduced. Living in foreign countries for six months, post-retirement can be tough because of the language issue, weather conditions like snow. People feel in Geographic isolation.
  • Feeling lost in the crowd is another mental condition that needs treatment.

How to cope up with Loneliness & Isolation?

It is very easy for others to say, you do this and you do that but persons who face the problems find it difficult to reach the solutions. Those who are born with natural positiveness, also face these difficulties but they overcome them. Another example is, we think that Public figures and stage personalities do not have stage fright. That is not true, they also have the same issues like all others but they overcome them, mask them, hide them well.

  • Connect or reconnect with friends and family: staying in contact with loved ones can prevent loneliness and isolation. If your family does not live nearby, technology can help you stay in touch. Speak to them on WhatsApp or talk on Skype video. These are free. Keep in touch with them regularly.
  • Get out and about: Regular outings for social functions, exercise, visiting friends, doing shopping, or simply going to public places can help. Don’t avoid functions either public or private. If not, take long walks in gardens where you will see many people and maybe you will like a few of them, you may want to know them.
  • Volunteer: Helping others is a great way to help yourself feel more connected. Besides that, the feeling of goodness that comes within you because you are able to help somebody boosts your happy feelings.
  • Consider getting a pet: Pets are wonderful companions and can provide comfort and support during times of stress, ill-health or isolation. They give you love without expecting any returns. Expecting returns and NOT getting it, is one of the reasons, why the isolation starts. But don’t forget one thing. There is work involved in having a dog as a pet. Their food, their walking, their poo poo collection and so many things. Then along with your visits to the doctor, Vet visits get added.
  • Get support: If loneliness and social isolation are causing you distress, you should discuss your concerns with a doctor, counsellor or a trusted person. Don’t feel shy to openly asking for support. Remember people may not know that you need help unless you tell them.
  • Focus on others needs: Focus on the needs and feelings of others, give less attention to your lonely thoughts and feelings. You can be involved in yourself all the time or you can think of others too! Interacting with others is better! Enjoy the site of different people in their own thoughts and their own moods, you can smile at strangers too!
  • Try new things: Try to do some different things but don’t expect perfection and don’t expect people to appreciate what you are doing!

Ultimately, one has to find his own solution and there is no formula for this. Attempt different methods to interact with people, you may find some givers or some takers but don’t give up if you meet only takers initially; those people may have their own problems but keep on attempting. The world is too beautiful to live alone, try and enjoy to the best of your ability with others, with or without someone’s help!

There is a saying, if you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours! In the same vein if you see someone looking lonely, forlorn, isolated go out of your way to bring that person back to normal life! Tomorrow that person could be you!

Musafir Hoon Yaaro!

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!

                                          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!

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?

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!