Please listen to me!

 

arguments4Argumentative Indian is a book by Nobel Prize-winning author, Amartya Sen.

The Argumentative Indian has brought together a selection of writings from Sen that outline the need to understand contemporary India in the light of its long argumentative tradition. The understanding and use of this argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India’s democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.

So far so good. But do we deserve to be allowed to argue? I have observed that in the public domain sometimes discussions are done for the sake of discussion. The level of such talks has reached the nadir; speakers have literally reached below the belt, pun intended. A male candidate talking about a female opposition member has made a statement, “I never knew that she was wearing a khaki chaddi (underwear) all these days.” Can one make an argument worse than this one?  Unfortunately, such statements are appreciated by their followers; nobody questioned the candidate while he spoke such vile words.

I am all for freedom of speech, but I would never like to live in an emergency like situation, nor would I like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Everybody loves to argue, but it appears that the art of argument is lost at the altar of the new God, social media. The problem is that even in the public domain, the arguments done in Loksabha or Rajyasabha are more about personal attacks on each other from the ruling as well as opposition parties. Logical speeches are a rarity these days.

Another observation is that social media has created world-class commentators, in thousands. Everybody comments on politics, Indian cricket team selection, whether Priyanka Chopda is pregnant or not! Not only that but there are big fights shown on TV under the names like “Big Fight”, and the same gets reflected on WA groups. On Facebook, people write essays about how Modi is wrong or how Rahul Gandhi does not know anything. It is possible that the writer in every person is waking up, thanks to cell phone and easy to use keyboards in all languages.

About political arguments, the older you become rigid are your views. So on WA groups fighting tooth and nail about your point of view does not make sense. I have known of a few cases where childhood relationships became tense because of such arguments. Another important aspect we forget is that it is not worth fighting on issues on which we have no control. People take Alcohol; some like whisky and some like to drink wine. Some are fond of Beer, and some are Vodka fans. Of course, there are some teetotallers. Is it right that teetotaller calls others drunkards? Can teetotallers be called conservatives? Each person has his/her own way of living life; we should respect the views.

I recently read a poem धूप में घोडे पर बहस (Arguments about a Horse) by Kedarnath Singh. It is fascinating to understand how the poet has looked at the word बहस (argument or discussion).

Three friends were sitting in the Sun (must be winter time) discussing a horse. The first one said that the horse is lovely and the second friend added that the horse is sturdy! The third one said that if the horse is so sturdy then we should not even discuss it. The first friend shouted, “What do you mean we can’t discuss”? The second one said, “Of course, we can discuss.” The third friend looked pleased as he blew the cigarette smoke and said, “But where is the horse?” First one said, “So what if the horse is not there, we can always discuss about him.” The second one said, “I have never seen a horse in ages.” The third one said, “The population of horses is reducing fast”. The second one said, “Why is the population reducing?” The first one said, “That is because horses are being sold.” Now it is immaterial which friend said what. Just enjoy the arguments. “Who buys so many horses?” “We can get this number from somewhere!” “Why, why we can not get the numbers?” Then the first one whispered, “God knows what these numbers will reveal?” Finally, the third one shouted as if coming out of a trance, “Friends, one day we will know the correct numbers and the real story will come out.” After this statement, there was pin-drop silence for a long time. How did Kedarnath know that this will be the future quality level of arguments?

Inferior is the quality of arguments that we have on TV channels and social media. Subjects may be essential for discussion, but the treatment and direction given to subjects are abysmal, sometimes the arguments are nasty. The title of the blog “Please listen to me” is ironical. The word please is never used in discussions these days. In public domain people do and say anything to earn some brownie points.

What is an argument? There are many definitions of arguments, but I have chosen a couple of them.

  • a reason given for or against a matter under discussion
  • an angry quarrel or disagreement

The argument is a way of life and is used at home, in business, in education, in research besides many other areas. While arguing both sides are expected to be professional and polite, giving respect to each other. In science, the argument is put forth in trying to prove something new which may be compared with an existing method, process or a product. By arguing, different points of view come forward. The idea is to discuss and find the best possible solution or resolution to issue being discussed. But every time it may not be an issue. When two people from opposing political parties argue, they are putting their thoughts in front of us and are trying to prove how their party or candidate is better than the other.

I feel that the maturity, dignity, and style are more important while arguing. Shouting match starts when nobody has a better argument, or it reflects on that person’s culture! The discussion should be talking about the chosen subject matter and  unparliamentary words should never be used.

In a housing society committee except for the head, all were young people. This head used to shout to prove his points. In the first meeting after I joined the committee, this person started shouting to prove his point. I told him to speak normally, but he argued that his voice was loud. I told him “Sir, learn to speak softly and then speak, otherwise you need not to speak.” After this incident, he never shouted again.

arguments1

Now regarding the arguments/ shouting match on social media, above mentioned rules should be followed more rigidly. The groups that are formed are for a specific reason. The groups can be an alumni group, office groups, ex-office groups, society group, and many more. But all these people come together because of a specific reason. On such groups, one should not make unnecessary political arguments; these are uncalled for and counterproductive. For those who are politically minded, should form a separate group and keep on doing what they feel is right. My observation is that all groups 90 to 95% are not interested in such arguments.

Kedarnath Singhji has found it long back the way people argue. He has explained it in a light-hearted manner. So, let us go by his advice and suggestions, refrain from arguing on social media and if you are in an argument, use the word “Please”! Let me assure you good arguments are fun, and they are enjoyable, if done the right way!

Success Mantra!

After my previous blog “Titbits” my friend Subhash suggested that we should analyze the life’s successes vis a vis, education, studies, ranks earned and being a “scholar” during school/college times. One of the definitions of success is the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. In Asian culture in recent times, there has been a big emphasis on taking good education, it may be in their own country or in other countries. There is a general thought process that education changes a human being and the human becomes more cultured, sophisticated and becomes a better person.  

Does it really happen that way? In most cases, it does happen. But how do you measure success? Is fame the pinnacle of success? Does amassing wealth make you successful? Do all these things take you to upper most layer in the society? Frankly there are no clear-cut answers because there is no real definition of success. One thing is always said that a person appears more successful if he or she is a good human being too! What is important, a good human being or a successful human being? It is important to be successful good human being!

In certain areas of life like sports, entertainment education or the lack of it has not apparently come in the way. If we take examples of Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopda, they have been at pinnacle of their careers in sports and acting. They have both been good humans, they got themselves trained for being excellent in language and general behaviour. On top of that they are extremely successful commercially! They have been in their field of excellence since a very early age of 16 to 18 and never had time to take “education”! Another important aspect is that they are successful for a long duration. But this does not mean that everybody should not get educated as it did not matter in these two cases.  

Another famous case of a college drop-out is Bill Gates. But he was a drop-out from Harvard! Getting admitted to Harvard itself is success! But looks like he had urge and drive to do something more than completing his degree and rest as they say is history! Recently he has been sharing his wealth of billions of dollars for well-being of human race. He is also encouraging other rich people to share wealth for betterment of society, in general. Yes, Bill Gates can be said to be one of the most successful persons, living. 

Then there was famous rivalry between Tesla and Edison, both scientists. Both have invented so many things that it is difficult to say who was better. But from the history that I have read, Edison had more business sense than Tesla. Edison was a cut throat competitor whereas Tesla was a naïve person. Edison monetized his inventions quite well but Tesla never did that. Edison was all the time trying to see if Tesla could be commercially ruined! But to me Tesla was more successful with his one invention! He invented that A C current was better than D C current (invention by Edison) in real world. This is a difficult case to judge, commercially Edison did much better than Tesla, invention wise  probably both were at par. As human being Tesla was better than Edison. Friends, it’s your take to decide who was more successful! 

That brings us back to the thought that we had in the first place. Does education make a person successful? In our school and college times, there have been colleagues who were successful in getting very high grades all through. After completing education, different areas of work was chosen by different people. Some reached pinnacle of their chosen path but it appears that in most cases the so called “toppers” did not remain “toppers” in real life! Many times, the path to success is also dependent on “being at the right place at the right time”! It also depends on grabbing the opportunity when it comes knocking on one’s door! Those who did this have been really “successful” in life. 

Being at the pinnacle of chosen path makes one successful but being a good human being adds to that success. But I have seen many “successful” persons who in real have been average in what they could achieve. But they have marketed themselves with the authorities who matter. The success in public sector areas and having done the right “marketing” with authorities have earned some people with national accolades like “Padma” awards in India. Some have been so strong in “marketing” themselves, that their mediocre achievements or pseudo achievements remain hidden!   

How to compare success in area A and area B? A friend became MD of one of largest company in India. He also continues to be a very good human being. So, he definitely achieved great success in life. Another friend started a manufacturing unit and manufactures world class products, again a very good human being! If we compare the two, then who is more successful? It is very difficult to judge. Both have worked in different environments in private sector. Both were classmates but were not known to be “scholars” in college days. Another person, a known “scholar” in college times became top boss of one of the India’s premier educational institute. He was always in touch with Govt bosses because of his work. He was awarded with a “Padma” award. This person was recently heard giving a speech about education policy and was found to have put forth average thoughts. Who is successful among the three? I don’t know.  

Success is not dependent on whether one is successful in private sector or as an entrepreneur or in govt sector. Success is independent of the field you are in. It could be business, sports, art, job, armed forces, scientist, social worker or a politician. You must do a great job in what you do and remain a good human being even at the pinnacle; you must retain humbleness and show empathy for others. To be successful in life, one needs to be sincere, consistent, must have perseverance, must be able to take others with you.   

How you achieve these parameters, defines your success. More successful or less successful are comparisons done by others. It is probably impossible to compare success in two different fields. It is not possible to compare a great gymnast with a great scientist! People will always compare between brain and the brawn! Like in studies it is always said that those who are good at Math are very smart. I don’t think so. One who is very at good music is equally smart in his own field!  

This discussion and comparisons are unending; but one thing is sure that the world becomes a better place with successful people. But this success should not be a “marketed” success, it is the success of the human who has contributed to the society, keeping core values intact. But one thing is sure that “success” list is not the same as list of successful candidates declared after college, school level exams. It gets mixed up and many a “back benchers” end up at the top!  

 

I don’t care!

A news item in Pune’s newspaper said that a 14-year-old kid was stopped by the police as he was driving a two-wheeler on public roads. Obviously, he had no license and on top of it, when the police asked for the vehicle documents, he and his family did not have them. The number plate on the scooter was bogus. Questions arose if the vehicle was stolen? How did the family allow the kid to take the scooter on public roads? When asked, they did not have answers; the police arrested two people, the father and the uncle of the kid. The uncle supposedly owned the scooter. Was this family in some kind of funny business about stealing of vehicles?  

The sheer arrogance, impunity with which people allow kids to use motorized vehicles cannot be believed. ” My kid drives beautifully though he is only 13″, kind of stuff! This reflects poorly on the society and irrespective of income levels, family backgrounds, such incidents keep on happening. The result of such actions is that kids at an early age learn to do illegal things. They have no fear of law as they are falsely protected by the parents. Similar “training” is given to kids when their mothers take them on scooters and jump the red signal. At the young age, for kids, mother is everything. If she jumps red signal then it is their green signal! Another thing, is that it leads to is accidents. There is always a reason when society makes rules. Age allowed to drive motorized vehicles, age for getting married, age for consuming alcoholic drinks, these are all decided after observing human behavior vis a vis their age, over a period of time. Maturity required for performing these activities is lacking at younger age. This lack of maturity gives false sense of confidence to kids! In India, certain low powered scooters are allowed to be driven legally, when the child becomes 16! At the same age, in the US, they allow cars to be driven by kids but an adult with license needs to be sitting next to the kid in the car. We forget or we don’t care that these rules are made for the safety of individuals and in general safety of the people in society.  

Today morning, I was going out for a walk. In our building parking area, a kid 12 or 13-year-old, came on a scooter with his older brother, sitting behind him. I stopped them, gave them a bit of sermon. The older brother was a sensible guy. When I threatened that, I will report this to the police, he immediately agreed that he will never allow the kid to drive the scooter again, illegally. His argument, “Oh I just allowed him to drive in the society premises”! Same thing happened years back when I lived in a large society with good roads. The kid was similar age and he was driving a car. His father was sitting next to him. I stopped the car and asked the kid to get down. His father started an argument, I removed the car key and kept it in my pocket. His father’s argument; “Oh he drives beautifully blah, blah, blah”! When I asked the father about the risks and legality he had no answer.    

Now in India, a law has been promulgated to prevent such use of vehicles. The parents of such defaulting kids cannot hide behind the argument that their kid took the vehicle without their knowledge. But let me assure you that this has been happening from the time cars came into existence. I had a friend Ashok, when we were in engineering college. We used to “steal” his father’s car late at night when everyone was asleep. We would push it to a certain distance, away from home, without starting it, for obvious reasons. Not only Ashok, but all of us had driving licenses.  

We at younger age feel that we are infallible, immortal. Today a major fatal accident happened in Pune. A 20-year-old man had a different idea in his mind. At 4 am in the morning, he took his uncles car and went for a drive on an empty carriageway. He had a brilliant idea that he should send a live video feed to Instagram. He did the set-up on his cell phone, informed his friends and started driving at a very high speed. Can you imagine where his camera was focused? It was focused on the speedometer. The only way he could have done this was by holding the camera in one hand while driving. Great recipe! Empty road, high speed, one hand away from steering wheel! Add to this the exhilaration of sending live feed on Instagram. The inevitable happened, the car crashed against a barrier, the guy died instantaneously. The car was total loss; when I saw the picture in the newspaper, even without reading the news item, I knew that there would be no survivors! 

When such inevitable is known why some elements in the society, do not follow basic discipline? We sing paeans about western society, their discipline, their cleanliness, their organized way of life. But what do we do from our side to ensure that we will follow the same in India? In every phase of life, we break rules, we break laws, we are afraid to confront our kids who want to try something illegal; we never tell our kids that this is the law of land, you are just not allowed to drive a vehicle at this age. Kids just follow what their parents do at home or in the society. I remember an incident that I had seen years back. Two families were having dinner at a restaurant, enjoying their liquor too! No harm! But one of the mothers, drank way beyond her capacity! Her husband told their ten-year-old son, “Beta, take your Mumma to the wash room!” The Mumma could not take two steps in a straight line! 15 years later the same boy who must have turned into a dashing man, must have said when totally drunk, “Mumma was always right”!  

Disciplined, clean, advanced society? Start at home, confront your kids when required, follow the same path again and again. But looks like we definitely have something in our DNA. Leading actor Priyanka Chopda, was asked in an interview recently, what she misses from India as she is in the US most of the time! Prompt came her reply, ” Oh, reaching on time on film sets in the US is a big bore, in India I could reach as late as I wanted”! It might be her sense of humour but it is a bit weird!  

Another View Point! The 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 the minds of the people, that are tough to handle.

Most of my life has been spent in the 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 a 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 travelled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualised. 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 to 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. The school building has changed completely or, a business centre 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 of some particular 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 a tiny percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?

There is a new “going to native place” phenomena due to 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!

1949 or 1979? 

I am trying a different format of blog which I may repeat if both you folks and I find it comfortable!

I thought why not ask a question to myself in the form of Vikram Vetal story! Vikram, the King is Pramod and Vetal, the spirit is replaced by new entity, “Internet Genie”! (called Genie)

                                                            InternetGenie

Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “If you were given a choice, will you be born again in 1949 or 1979, which year will you prefer?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

 As usual, Genie kept on talking. Pramod now that you are in Golden period of your life, you will be a good judge to say if you would rather be born in 1979! Person born in 1979 will not be able to judge if his birth should have been in 1949. You have seen a much simpler world, almost on the verge of being naïve. Cities were smaller, life was simpler but then there was nothing to do in the evening except news at 7 pm and 8 pm on the radio! While you were in school/college there were shortages, incomes were low, and eating an apple was considered a luxury! Ultimate aim in those days was to have your own bicycle.

Had you been born in 1979, as you ended school and entered college, you would have had colour tv, the rationing was almost gone, availability of everything had improved. Eating out in big restaurants with parents would have been a thing to look forward to. Maybe some parents had cars! Sachin Tendulkar had started playing for India, MS DOS, PC, web, these words were discussed. Maruti had already won the heart of Indians but die-hard Ambassador fans were still looking Maruti down!

You were of course very busy managing careers, family, children and trying to attend to the general responsibilities of life, so time had been at a premium. Before you realized that you were around 50 your son had moved to the US. Your daughter had already decided to join dentistry. But you guys could find some time for your children, supporting their extra-curricular activities when they were younger. Already 500 MB hard discs were fitted on pc’s.

Make a jump to 2017, you are now around 70 but you could have been around 40 had you been born in 1979! Now the real tussle has started in your mind. Is 70 or 40 good age to be in 2017! At your present age of 70, you would have been an also ran if you had not retrained yourself in IT related technology. Techno phobia would have really pulled you back but those who have retrained are having fun. Cell phones, tablets, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube are fun things and there is no time restriction. There are no parents to give lectures. You can give a lot time to your grandchildren on equal footing, with modern gadgets, which you did not have when your children were growing, and really enjoy.  Your fun quotient is very high because you have traveled in a bullock cart as well as in Boeing Dreamliner 787!

If you were to be born in1979, at around the age of 40, you would be very,  very busy! You would have grown with all the new technology around you. But not enough time available, all the time work, work and work. Working life in 2017 being very hectic, you would have had everything except time! You have never traveled in the bullock cart so conceptually  not many big changes for you; your fun quotient would not have been really significant! Your children are still young. You have to take them to gymnastics, judo, art class, dance class and so on. So, time available is further cut down. You would have jokingly said, ” Now I have regular day job and run taxi service to take kids around after coming home!”

Pramod I can see you smiling and coming up with an argument. I know what you are going to say. In 50’s/60’s you saw Waheeda & Devanand from 20 feet distance, shooting for a movie!  You met Mukri, Ashok Saraf on a train while coming from Bombay once. You also met Bapu Nadkarni test cricket all-rounder in a train journey to Bombay, another time. In your 79 avatar such events would be only in dreams! Celebrities and hero/heroines are humans like us but human touch is getting lost for this generation because of changing times or is it because human touch is out of fashion?

Pramod went into nostalgia when he heard Genie talking about Waheeda! He forgot the golden rule and said,” Genie you will never understand the naïve 60’s but those were the days! I am good to be born in 1949 enjoying best of the both worlds!”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “But Pramod whatever you may, I know that Virat Kohli, Priyanka Chopda and Ranbir Singh are your current favourites, though you are not openly accepting!”