Canadian siesta!

Friends, before I go to the main subject, I want to inform you that for the next few weeks, there could be a delay in publishing my blogs. I have joined an online course at Oxford University, which has a ten-week duration. I need to study, attend discussions, and so on! The course is an advanced course in creative writing. I have never attended such a course before for obvious reasons, but I thought the course would help me become a better writer, it will help me organise my thoughts better. I have no ambition to become a professional writer, but whatever little I write, I will feel happy if I become more accomplished in what I do in future. Some friends will thank me for writing less! 🙂🙂

You must be wondering why I have used the word siesta! A siesta ([ˈsjesta]) (Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm. The word is used in the context of Mediterranean countries where the siesta is a part of the culture. But for Jaya and me, the cold weather puts us in Siesta mode whenever there is an opportunity. Cold is how I am defining the weather, but some of the young gang is seen on the road, moving around in shorts and T-shirts! We both manage to sleep deeply at any time of the day; all one needs is a warm blanket. At 5 am the temperature is 8.5 deg! It is only the beginning of September.

I am, of course taking feedback from Nikhil and Priya from their short stay in Montreal of 3 to 9 months. I have visited advanced societies world over, many times, but I am every time amazed the way these societies operate. I am not talking about technical aspects but the human elements. I have written a blog about Indian psyche a few days back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/new-rto-regime-and-indian-psyche/

I always feel that we are in denial mode and are proud of the chaos and lack of self-discipline that we show in the society. Maybe sometimes we are even proud of these things. We feel that basic indiscipline is our birthright. The other day I was in Model Colony for some work. In Deep bungalow Chowk they have put up dividers, some temporary and others permanent to smoothen the traffic flow. Ganapati pandals are supposedly allowed to cover 1/3 of the road during the festival period. The pandal did cover 1/3 of the road, but the organisers are not bothered that the road now has a divider. Simple maths says that currently only two-wheelers and autos can pass through that area of the road. How do other vehicles go? Obviously on the wrong side of the divider!  Is anyone bothered? I don’t think so.

Montreal Marathi Mandal program was held in a church, where there was a decent hall available. The enthusiasm of all was seen to be believed. I met a few people who started this activity in Montreal in the year 1982! Kudos to them for the consistency. Montreal appears to have a smallish Indian community so continuing it for more than 35 years is creditable. More than 100 people were present. A group of young and not so young volunteers did all work including logistics, arrangement and later cleaning etc. Great job, guys!

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Similar programs are done in India but the general confusion, deafening music, and we have unnecessary disagreements with authorities on everything, taking shelter behind religion!  India’s population is so large that a huge crowd is always present, and generally, there is reasonable discipline during programs. Why is the behaviour of the crowd disciplined to chaotic? What reasons could be there for this changeover?

I have seen a large crowd and their behaviour during the Cricket World cup finals (2015) at Melbourne, Australia. A total number of people present were 93000 plus. Right from arrival of spectators at the stadium, to dispersal after the end of the match was very organised. In between people were also disciplined during the usage of food courts and washrooms. There were long queues but there no jostling and pushing.

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Whatever little I have seen in Montreal till now was found very neat and proper. There is a lot of road repair work going on everywhere. On checking,  I found out that during harsh winters due to snow, road repair is not practical. Add to this maximum temperature of 35 deg in summer to -35 deg in winter must be creating road and pipeline issues regularly.

Comparisons of small things always are made in mind. On particular days, the garbage trucks come in to pick up the garbage in Montreal; okay nothing great about it. But In Pune, the vehicles come every day, but in certain areas, they run a song requesting people to come out with garbage bags! Why do people need to be coaxed every day to put away their garbage? Don’t we brush our teeth every day? We don’t put on an alarm to remind us to brush!  In olden days a guy used to work in my office. Those were the days of the pager. He had a field job and would come to my office every day at 9; we would discuss the work, and then he would go on the field. He would fit his pager in the trouser belt. One day, I saw that he had know pager. So, I asked him where his pager was? He lamely said that he had forgotten. I told him that since he had come to the office wearing a trouser and the belt, there was no way he could give the lame excuse of “forgot.”  Some of the things in our lives become our second nature like driving a  car, using a washroom, crossing the road when we have the right signal. But why do people break so many small rules so easily?

One interesting thing I saw in Montreal. People of different age were seen running on the footpath so that they didn’t miss the bus which was arriving. Once I was standing on the bus stop watching people (my favourite past time!). The people had already done their job of getting down and getting inside. Almost for one minute, the bus did not move! Then I observed that the bus driver had seen a lady running to catch the bus; he waited till she reached and climbed in safely! What can we call this? Basic courtesy? The natural thing to do? I have not seen this courtesy in most other cities.

Before I travelled to Montreal, I was told that French is the first language, and so on. But for visitors like me, when I start speaking in English, people reply in English. The reason could be, computerisation has made English a global language and secondly I could see people of many nationalities present on the streets. Canada’s liberal policies of immigration and support to refugees are increasing the number of people speaking different languages, making English a common link.

I will share more about culture and traditions as I explore more of Montreal in the coming weeks.

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Humane approach to technology!

Today’s human attributes are the result of changing, improving of the skill sets. Ages back humans started carving things on stones to write messages. They used signs, images to convey what they wanted to say. Advance in technology is changing the way we live, the way we write and the way we communicate. We developed modern languages, both spoken and written.

Whats App, Facebook, Snap chat, Skype have helped us to keep connected 24/7. And are we in touch? Of course, we are. We can communicate individually, in groups anytime we want. This technology has helped us to find long lost friends, got people in touch again. There are alumni groups, there are office groups, there are ex office groups, there could be ex ex office groups too! I don’t know if the lovers form a group of different ex’s like A breaks up with B and then B breaks up with C and then A breaks up with D; A, B, C, D may form a group! Possible, these groups may already be existing!

It seems that like fashion, our writing methods and style are also coming back in vogue after years. We had bell bottom pants in 70’s and looks like they will be the next rage! Ladies used wear a choli in olden days, now a days the blouses are so small that are may be tinier than cholis! It seems that the language of communication from stone age is coming back after completing a full circle. I am sure by now you must have understood that I am talking of Emojis. Whats App has changed our writing style and took it back to stone ages, at least sometimes.

Advent of Whats App has led to evolution of emojis. Maybe initially it was thought that using emoji was a good way of responding quickly. But over a period, this seems to have evolved in a language of its own. Add to that words like K for Ok, HBD for happy birthday and so on. Pre-emoji days, when somebody contacted us on phone and we were busy, we replied with a quick, “I will call you back.” Cell phones brought a bit of more technology and we could quickly respond by text message, “I will call you back, I am in a meeting, text me the details, I am driving” or some such thing. Then in most cases, we called on phone after we became free.

We have hundreds of “friends” but we are very lonely, we don’t even know our neighbours, sometimes; this cliché is so true these days. What is the real use of this new technology, how to use it correctly, is it really beneficial? Generally, technology that gets absorbed by large number of people quickly, is good and helpful. Unless some other technology comes up sooner than expected, they have a decent life cycle too! But the classic case is of Fax and Pager. These technologies were good when they were introduced, but were quickly made obsolete by e mail and cell phones.

How to make new devices and technology useful? We should not forget that the human element should always be remembered in interactions. People become anonymous behind technology. This anonymity makes people bolder, many a time in a wrong way,  in what they write and what they post, and how much they post! We can make Whats App groups clutter free by not allowing forwards. In one group we have 150 members, imagine if forwards and GM/GN messages were allowed! Let me assure you it is doable. I found one very interesting way of making FB interesting, enjoyable and fun. On Jaya’s wall she shared a message, gist of which is as follows. “This is my post without any photo, so it may not look interesting. Write a word or anything about me after fully reading this message”. Its a very innovative way of involving friends. When people read the message, they have written whatever first came to their mind about her! In some cases the association was maybe ten years, in other cases it was 50 years old! You don’t need to share 100 photos of your recent holiday; you can share a photo or two and then share the link for other photos. Please understand that maybe 1 or 2 out 100 people are interested in seeing ALL the photos! Make things clean and clutter free and enjoy fruits of innovations!

How to handle issue of “Friends”? Since last 3 years, I have stopped sending friend requests on Facebook? Whenever I get a friend request, I check if I have any common friends. Unless I get positive response from some common friend, I keep it on hold. Sometimes, there are some persons with whom you have interacted quite a lot in olden days, sends a friend request, I accept it. But in general, I am not very comfortable with “new friends”!

Most important thing is people forget the human part of the connect in electronic media. On occasion like birthdays, people send their best wishes on Whats App and Facebook. I try and thank everybody individually. It may be a one liner but I write, “Hey Deepak, thanks for your wishes? Have you recovered from your health issue?” Or some such thing. This small gesture, I feel, goes long way in bringing friends closer. When I have to wish people on their birthdays, I try and call them, I talk on phone. This is the human touch I am talking about. Wishing on Whats App and FB is good but it feels impersonal. Let’s use these technical advances by all means but don’t forget the human touch, like phone call! Let me assure that you and the person with whom you talked will be mighty pleased!