World Class!

Become World Class! It is doable!

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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!  

 

 

Do nothing holiday!

“Not doing anything holiday” is the doing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.  

 

Faith or Facts?

Faith or Logic is always a debatable issue!

Discussions are always going on about how advanced science and technology was in our old civilization; there have been references like use of Pushpak Viman by Lord Ram. Honestly, one does not really know how to handle such discussions. Discussions about old civilizations are mainly based on religious dialogues and sentiments. Religion is a matter of faith not knowledge. When you try to marry the two there is confusion. This issue is perhaps there, in every faith. However, the problem is accentuated, when to this mismatch of knowledge and religion, politics is added. 

Tripura Chief Minister  Biplab Kumar Deo made a statement that there was internet during Mahabharata. Mr. Deb is not the first politician to claim that modern day technology existed in mythology. In January, Satyapal Singh, a junior education minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, criticized the theory of evolution, claiming “nobody saw apes turn into human“. In February, he said mantras‘ had codified Newton’s Laws of Motion. 

Now this is a topic that is always going to generate heat, and heat it is generating. What is correct and what is wrong is individual choice; this sometimes is blinded by faith, every body has his own justification and thought process. Probably it starts with people who are totally religious and those who are atheist! Two ends of the spectrum. Most will be in between. But the thought process about mythology depends on whether you are scientific minded or not. Those with scientific mind will heat everything in the crucible of thought and analysis. It is possible  that for some people who are trained in science still may not want to analyze it scientifically. It is the faith element in those persons which is stronger that the analytical part. 

But do we make fun of people who have stronger belief in faith than in thinking logically? Do we say something which we normally don’t say to each other? No way! Let us be fair to each other. You may try and have a dialogue with such people, try to explain to them your point of view if it is different. It is normal way of life, we have difference of opinion on a subject. Why should there be excitement in saying or writing on such issues?  

But then another thought comes to my mind. I tend more towards atheism and I am also trained in science side of life and have been working all my life in the same area. So my mind veers towards analyzing everything, including religious things. There have been many inventions that were claimed to exist during times of our old civilization. But I feel that this thought process is made by people who believe in it and is presented to suit and strengthen their arguments. These and many more abstracted truisms are just based on optical and physical observations and concentrated analytical thinking, in olden times. The disadvantage these people had was that they had to study without the help of instruments, now available to the scientists! So, we can claim that we knew about a lot about things terrestrial but I do not think we knew real details! Another thought that always comes to mind is that written records of history are a recent phenomena, compared to the time frame of our civilization. I am really not sure about the authenticity of the records, as there have been no written records. All the knowledge, information was passed on verbally to next generation. Similar was the case of other sciences like medical treatments. The quality of passing of this knowledge depended on the person who passed on the knowledge and the person who received the knowledge. In Marathi, there is saying ध चा मा! A king gave an order to his juniors to arrest someone; one change in the alphabet in that order, indicated by ध चा मा, ended up killing that person instead of being arrested. These small errors could have multiplied as the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation, in absence of written records. This is profoundly reflected in Ayurveda. Ayurveda had an advantage of being around for a long time, compared to other medical pathys. But in absence of such record keeping, many good treaties and treatments may have been lost or got diluted. This of course, is another subject for discussion because Ayurveda fell behind later due to lack of research. 

I must write about how people go overboard about things supposedly present during mythological times. Lord Rama started to go to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka, after killing Ravana, on Dussara day. When he reached Ayodhya, people were ready to celebrate the event by putting lights or Diya’s everywhere! Of course, I am talking of Diwali. They said that this is the reason Diwali is celebrated 21 days after Dussera, time taken by Ram to reach Ayodhya from Srilanka. There was a google map in circulation,  showing the path followed by Lord Ram to reach in 21 days. It was straight as an arrow passing through jungles and mountains and crossing large rivers. We find it difficult even today, to traverse certain paths with modern roads and vehicles but… Secondly, how were people in Ayodhya ready for the arrival? Internet, cell phone, of course we had them during those days.

Ex Police Commissioner of Mumbai and now a Junior minister, Satyapal Singh says that Darwin’s theory is meaning less because he has never seen apes getting converted into humans. Now when people like an ex commissioner of police of Mumbai and chief minister of the state say such things for political purpose, it is more of an embarrassment and not correct. Of course we can then say that Dhritrashtra was getting all the information from the war zone, sitting in his palace, by live streaming! I am ok with someone who says that my life is better if everyday I go to a mandir! Perfect, nothing wrong in that. It is the faith of that person. If someone claims that his life better as he chants mantras every day, I am ok. He says these things after the event! Someone’s belief in faith is acceptable. But the above mentioned statements by Ministers, are rather difficult to digest, freedom of speech and all count but there has to be some logic behind what one claims. 

I met a person recently who was doing some archeological study in interior of our country. After digging deep they found some artifacts which were probably 2000 years old. I asked him what was his conclusion. He said, that they concluded the old civilization definitely had WiFi during those days because they did not find anything like cables etc!