Apprehensions? What is that?

Throw away apprehensions, your inhibitions and embrace the goodness of life! Help the world to drive away dark clouds in life, every bit adds! 
 

The other day instead of going for a walk, I took my camera with a new wide angle lens for tryouts. Left home around 5.30 and went to the bridge on the river, near my home. This trip was under guidance from my friend Vijay Ghate. I take his help on anything related to photography and he suggested that it will be a good idea to go out and take 40/50 photos, trying out variations. Slowly I got the feel of things and decided to come home.

On the way back home I saw three gentlemen, all retired much more than a decade earlier. They were chatting away. They were standing outside an old people’s home by the name Matoshri Vrudhhashram. I saw one more person coming out, he spoke a sentence with them and went inside again. So I assumed that all these friends lived in the home. As I was nearing them and saw that they were observing me, a guy with white hair wearing a T shirt, track pant and a Chappal. I was in photography mode and not in morning walk mode. I had Camera hanging round the neck! 

As I came near them, I asked them in Marathi, “How are you?” The initial apprehensions on their face gave way to a smile. I have generally observed that people speak to me initially in Hindi as they assume that I am a non-Maharashtrian. One of them asked me “Are you from that school?”  I jokingly said, “Now I do not think anyone will take me in any school at this age!” Then I realized they thought that I was from film institute. Then I briefly explained to them my reason for the sojourn with camera. One thing led to another.

We ended up chatting with each other for about 15 minutes. One thing I realized was their keenness to talk to me. I realized that they wanted to share their stories with me, an unknown stranger. One of them had worked in Bombay Suburban Electric office at Parel, Mumbai; another had worked as electrician in a factory. Third person had his career in Govt job. I had common things with first two of them and we could take the conversation further, very easily. Words were just pouring out of them. They wanted company, they were together but maybe they were lonely, away from “home”, the real home.  Was this how you become when you live in an old people’s home? I could see keenness in their eyes but also some sadness. If I had not smiled at them, I don’t think they would not have spoken to me. It is this apprehension that comes in the way in interaction between people. I did not do anything out of the way but I felt nice to see smile on their faces. One of them had worked at Cummins on maintenance side. He took a few names during his time whom I knew. When I told him that I am a Metallurgist by training, he was thrilled to share his experiences about heat treatment furnaces! Was he happy! Mumbai person wanted to know where I lived in Mumbai. They wanted to know where I did my engineering. We could have chatted on and on but I had somethings lined up at home; I wished them a good day and moved on. The story does not end here!

While I started walking ahead I felt that a gentleman, again not known to me, out for his morning walk, was walking parallel to me. I gave him a smile and said good morning. Then I told him that I was just chatting with these folks as I thought humoring them in the morning was a good idea. We walked about fifty steps together and when my lane came, we stopped, I introduced me to him, and we kept exchanging pleasantries and bit of information with each other. He was a registrar in a large education institute. We were talking about the institute. I saw one more gentleman, unknown to both of us, was slowing down. I said good morning to him; and lo he also joined our tid bits. He worked in a consulting company. We all chatted. He was also curious about what I was chatting with the retirees! Without mentioning any details we chatted for another ten minutes and parted ways.

Friends, what I described just now will appear to be a very small event and in life’s cycle it will not even be a blip. But I felt that there is deep meaning involved in those 20/30 minutes. A few people not known to each other, just came together to chat, exchange pleasantries. This to me is most important thing in the world. In our day to day lives, we live next to each other but because of apprehensions we don’t know each other at all! Ok every day you may not get time, you may be busy. But whenever you get a bit of time, why not spend the same in spreading the camaraderie, spreading pleasantness. We know we cannot change lives in that short span of time but we can always create a silver lining to the dark clouds! I hope I did that, to those three gentlemen living in Matoshri! There is nothing more precious in life than a smile on someone’s face! So throw away apprehensions, your inhibitions and embrace the goodness of life! Help the world to drive away dark clouds in life, every bit adds! 

 

Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

This my life’s journey and role played by different homes in my life. I am sharing my treasure trove with you in this series!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…

 

Women’s day

My wife Jaya was invited to Mumbai as chief guest to celebrate Women’s day. Conference was held under the aegis of an Organization “Amhi Udyogini”, who promote women entrepreneurs.  After her talk many ladies met Jaya and wanted to take selfies and photos with her. In fact one lady requested Jaya to write a message for her, in her diary! A couple of day’s later one lady called Jaya to thank her for her encouraging words at the conference. She said that she and her husband make furniture for laboratories; she then gave phone to her husband. The husband was all praise for his wife’s efforts. He said that she is the front end of their business and all their growth is due to the wife’s drive. Jaya asked him, “Why did she give you the phone and did not talk more with me?” He explained that she is bit diffident and feels a bit shy to talk about their business herself.

Happy-Womens-Day-Quotes-2016

I started thinking why this is so? When the lady is the driving force of their business why is she diffident? It probably goes back to history of humanity where patriarchal society has been the norm. Historically when mankind did not understand many things and was yet to start thinking logically, social norms were created. Man had a bigger build so he was supposed protect and fight and support that family. Woman’s role was to cook and procreate! Under the guise of protection Man would not allow women to interact with others. One religion went to the extreme by not allowing women show their body parts to anyone even when outside home, that too today! So called liberal religions were not much better and they would control their women in different ways, including chastity belts!

Friends, you will be surprised to know that women were legally allowed to vote in America in the year 1920. Before that they were considered sub human! In UK it was allowed around 1928 and in Germany after Hitler’s fall! Luckily in Pune, where I live, there were social reformers like Jyotiba Phule, Maharshi Karve and many others. Social reforms in India started in 19th century, and Pune is way ahead of rest of India in women’s rights and safety. Pune has been a liberal for decades and many ladies have been driving vehicles and doing professional work since several decades. Today I am told that in some engineering courses girls population is 30% plus. In medical and dental education it is 60%  plus!

How should we celebrate the women’s day? Men should respect the women, they should accept a fact that women can be smarter than men just as some men are! A lady is always doing a lot of parallel processing in her day to day work. She looks after the needs of the home, the kids, their studies, social contacts. A professional woman handles all these things with a great aplomb considering her monthly pms issues!

But more realistically this can be started right from the childhood! Parents & all the people at home should make sure that boys and girls are treated exactly same. Let them do things that they do naturally. Let boys play with their dinky cars if they want and girls with their dolls. But don’t force them away if girls like to play with cars! Share the all information with them about technology, banks, trains, planes and everything whether the child is a boy or a girl! Teach both boys and girls about cooking and other home things. But best one is what my daughter was telling the other day to my grand-daughter. My daughter Priya said, “Rhea see the Superman in the comic book! He has lot of strength and he can almost do anything. Similarly we girls are Superwomen and we can also do almost everything!” Happy Women’s day!

Pollution! Nobody’s Baby!

Recently all of us have heard of pollution issues that are literally choking Delhi and probably this is only the beginning. As usual we go about the issues as if it is Government problem and has nothing to do with us. There are a couple of things that need to be considered. Nobody could have predicted that India will manufacture 3 million four wheelers per year and one million plus two wheelers per month by 2015. Increased car ownership can be considered as effect of liberalization. This improved the economy  at a rapid pace, at the same time growth of IT sector started. Combined effect of these two factors led increase in aspirations of fast growing middle class. But growth of two wheelers is purely because of poor infrastructure of roads and public transport in our cities. A society is considered developed if middle class and upper middle class people in that society travel by public transport.

Consider any city in India. Except for Mumbai, where does public transport carry large number of people daily. What is their other option? People have to move like Sardines packed in the “Local” trains. Ask any Mumbaikar about Metro and he will agree that ALL trains in Mumbai should be like Metros! Why Rs.90000/ crores planned for Shinkansen cannot be used to Mumbai “local” train quality improvement? (I am aware that its a special deal) Millions of Mumbaikars will bless the Government if this is done. What are our governments priorities? What are our society’s priorities? What do we want to achieve? Do we want to become a four/two wheeler dependent society? Do we have the discipline to become individually owned vehicle based society? Are we at all striving to become an advanced nation?

What is really adding to pollution? I am comparing data in general and not for any specific category. During discussions on pollution, we talk only of vehicles like cars, trucks, buses et al but there are other factors too. I am discussing Delhi issues because it has become first city in India to have really suffered. Factors contributing to pollution in Delhi are

  1. Winter/Weather
    1. Winter causes stagnation of cold weather near the earth’s surface  ie inversion due to cool air. This is not new to Delhi and has been an old phenomena
    2. Air flow patterns from Afghanistan and Pakistan, pick up from Haryana and Punjab, smoke created by farmers burning the straw in the fields.
    3. Delhi generates 10000 tons municipal solid waste per day. This is burnt every day.
    4. Pre monsoon dust storm also add to this issue
  2. Industry
    1. Delhi has massive construction projects going on; these add to pollution
    2. There are many industries in Delhi
  3. Power generation plants
    1. Badarpur power plants are 30 to 40 year old. Plants use very poor coal quality and have very old design equipments with almost zero automation. This cause high pollution as well as cost.
  4. Vehicles all types
    • Delhi has 7.5 million vehicles on its roads. Many of them older than 15 years.
    • By sheer volume, we miss out that two wheelers also have equal share in pollution because they are 70% of total vehicle population.
    • Government policies have kept diesel cheaper than CNG for most of the period thereby discouraging the use of CNG
    • Diesel buses which carry 50/60 passengers are taxed more than diesel cars.
    • Large number of trucks going to other destinations  just pass through Delhi though they have no business to be in Delhi.
  5. Dust cleaning from roads
    1. In India road cleaning is done every day using “Zaru”, a broom. With this method maybe 50% of the dust that should have been collected goes into air adding to pollution.
    2. It is seasonal but Diwali fire crackers add to pollution
  6. Delhi has a typical mix of Government authority where Delhi is a state Government but has a very large number Central Government establishments. This causes the clash of authorities so taking decision can be tricky for both!
  7. It is Supreme Court that has been pushing the Government. Supreme Court has now taken actions which best can be described as knee jerk. What is going to happen by not allowing to register say 15000 large diesel SUV/C class vehicles?
  8. Delhi citizens almost pay no money for parking their vehicles on public roads. This leads to indiscriminate buying of vehicles. In cities like New York 30 years back people had pay US$ 300/ per month to park their cars in apartment complexes.
  9. Besides this Governments policies play a major role in vehicle pollution issues. Following two tables show the Indian standards and European Standards for pollution norms.
  10. EuroNorms
  11. BharatNorms
  12. When the policies were declared by European Union, which were then followed by Indian Government, the EU wanted to reach Euro VI standard by September 2014. Whereas Indian goal was equivalent of Euro V by 2017! This is where the real issues start. Pre liberalization there used be Hindu Growth rate of 2.5% per year in India. Probably as we believe in Karma, we are in no hurry to change things. When this rate grew to between 6 & 8%, pollution also started galloping. We just forgot to change our targets  for pollution control which probably would have been ok for Hindu Growth rate! .
    1. Even on decided targets there is a major failure in implementation.
    2. Currently for fuel supplies, Northern India and large cities in other parts of India get BS IV for petrol & diesel. Rest of the country is expected to be BS IV in Jan 2016, BS by Jan 2020 and BS VI by 2023!!  Unconfirmed report says that industry will struggle to meet even BS IV norms by 2017.
    3. Vehicle industry says it will struggle to make BS V by 2020 and  BS VI by 2024!
    4. This proves one thing we are very adept at selecting appropriate names. EURO norms name is converted to BS. I need not elaborate the meaning of “BS”.
  13. Large Industries have money to open new factories but they do not have money to improve their Vehicles for better norms. Our Government owned fuel companies have thousands of crores to spend on marketing and opening new pumps. But they do not have money to improve refineries to make improved quality fuels.
  14. Why Government cannot give stringent targets to Automobile manufacturers and Fuel companies for going straight to Euro VI or Bharat VI norms? All these groups make noise but if they are forced they will do it. It is about putting correct priorities! Is it about the lack of political will? Is it about the clout of these big companies? Is it plain bribery? Why can’t Government push Public sector companies?
  15. Governments work on these issues only when the Supreme Court pushes them, otherwise everything is seems to be hunky dory.
  16. In olden days also I remember very foggy weather in Delhi in winters. Practice of cleaning roads with “Zaru” is an age old practice. Supreme court has already forced Smog caused by burning of straws in fields in Haryana and Punjab is also a very old practice. The factors mentioned were causing problems even in those days but word pollution was not in fashion.
  17. When nations proceeded rapidly towards industrialization they adopt new technologies, new ways of doing things. I am sure people must have been defecating in open in most countries in olden days. But this changed drastically. But in India in spite of Government trying very hard by making laws like “having toilets in home” as a pre-qualification for standing for local elections, people build the toilets but still defecate outside! Oh, we like it that way!! You will hardly see anyone spitting in developed countries. Mind you tobacco chewing was rampant in these countries too!
  18. Unless Governments, Industries, Fuel Companies, People all make concentrated efforts jointly and simultaneously problems of pollution will just remain that, Problems of Pollution, irrespective of whether we have authorities like National Green Tribunal (NGT)

In conclusion, we can say that following factors are causing pollution in Delhi.

  • Large number of vehicles and incorrect policy on diesel
  • Government apathy on regulations
  • Atmospheric conditions in winter
  • Auto makers & Oil industry taking advantage (gain what?) of lack of political will of Governments
  • Age old practices not being changed, road cleaning by “Zaru” & straw burning in farms
  • General apathy of public in not forcing  Government to pass strong laws. Yesterday’s example of passing of “Juvenile Justice Bill”. Public pressure forced law makers to pass this bill in the parliament.