Musafir Hoon Yaaro!

I have to continue my journey! मुझे चलते जाना है

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This is a beautiful song sung by Kishor Kumar from the Movie Parichay released in the year 1972. The song depicts a wanderer who says, friends “I am a wanderer, I have no home and I have no fixed whereabouts! So I keep moving from place to place.” Human life also can be described as that of a wanderer, we keep on moving through different stations in life, we keep on meeting different people in life! Our destination is defined by the destiny but our path is unknown to us!

Thoughts about relationships came to my mind when I spoke to my old friend Naresh, maybe after a gap of  six to eight  months. Naresh used to live in Pune, most of his career, and we hit it off from day one! It was Naresh’s birthday yesterday when we spoke and he was abroad! We started chatting and there was really no end to it. After a long chat, he said that he will call me when he comes back to Gurgaon, where he now lives. He said that since most of his prime years were spent in Pune, he has remained a Punekar! In those days he would come to my office for a cuppa at least once in a month, and we would chat and chat about all subjects on the Tera Firma! Relationships form, they continue, but they also change and wither over a  period, in most cases! This reminds me of a Sanskrit saying which is a very pragmatic way of looking at life.

 “यथा काष्टम काष्टम

The meaning of this saying is that, in the sea, wooden logs bump into each other, stay together for some time and in most cases go away from each other, never to bump into each other again. Same is the story of our lives! In our lives we meet so many people, in school, college, work and on personal level. We get to meet some new people through marriages that take place in the family. We meet people during travel. If we take a review of people we have met, a very small percentage continues to be in touch infrequently or frequently in a few cases. In some cases, though the contact is infrequent, relations remain warm as if we have been meeting regularly.

Of course, the life long friend who can be your THE friend is your spouse. This also is part of destiny. My move from Mumbai to Pune for engineering education was a major part of destiny as I met Jaya in Pune, at the college. I simply continued to live in Pune. Rest as they say is history. With such a strong main base of relationship, life’s complexities  become so much easier to handle.

It is pure destiny that I met Naresh! But there are people who have touched your life in more than one way. Some of them are not in this world but I am lucky that many are still around. The first such friend  I remember was a friend called Ranganekar. I was in 11th grade. During summer holidays I used to go to him a couple of times a week, he used to stay  far from my home. He was to go to his native place, and we said bye for the time being. I went to that area to meet other friends after a few days. I was shocked to know that on the same evening when we said bye, he had died in an accident while crossing a road! That was my first shock in life and it took me some time to overcome the grief, he was such a good chirpy friend!

For natural reasons, I am not going to share the names of friends, who are still around, as I share my journey with friends. A friend Dilip was my Mumbai friend, partner in all crimes when we were in adolescence. We stayed in same building and would play all games together. I was slightly better than him in sports, in studies we were equally naughty! Our relationship continued till he died at the age of around 50 plus. Final ten years, unfortunately our communication was infrequent and I still regret the same. Another Dilip was from Pune; we became very close while we worked together for some years. We always took work seriously but never took ourselves seriously. We used to eat each others food many times at office! We were in touch till he died, regularly though infrequently. I had spoken to him a few days before he died; luckily that day was his birthday when I spoke. Dilip was always smiling and his laughter was booming! Dilpya, I miss you man!

My first friend that I remember, was from time when we were in pre KG. We reunited in school and continued together in college. Later he moved to the US and continues to live there. Whenever I contact him he responds but unfortunately he never does it on his own. He was an introvert anyway! Another friend is really a masterstroke of destiny. We were in same batch at engineering college but had never met before. First time I met him was four years back and now we have become life time friends. Last one is of course, my brother, my critic, my Jigri dost. We must have a chat session at least once in a week, minimum. Why we were not in touch with each other since college days, only God can say! But we are making up for the lost time.

Six years of my college I lived in hostels! The stay in hostel creates a special bond. With some friends I have been in touch right through my life. When we meet, we start talking as if we had met on the previous day. Some of the hostel friends I met after 45 years, but again we felt as if there was never a break. Now we all regret how much we have missed while “living” life!

RailTrack3

Our life is like the  railway system. We catch  a train to a destination. We meet the people on the that journey, but there are unplanned stations in between. There are complex track changes too, as shown in the photo graph above. Situation in life sometimes forces us to get down at stations on the way, and then we change tracks. What journey we will take with whom, is decided by destiny and nurturing of relationship from both sides. In some cases, it so happens that the journey together continues for long, long years, like meeting every day on local trains of Mumbai. But here it so happens that the co passenger takes a fast train and you may end up taking a slow train.

Mind you, we know when the train is changing the track; we also have an inkling that the train is passing by, we hear the whistle of the train passing you, as heard in the video above. Things are changing but in busy life sometimes people miss the indication given by the whistle. Hurtling fast train is the epitome of the journey called life! People start getting more comfortable on the new path; maybe its inevitable to leave the monotony of Mumbai local trains. It’s natural that people change path and the destination!

Even in the days of great social media revolution like FB, WA the work overload does not leave enough time for the passenger on the fast trains to connect with passengers left behind, their speeds simply don’t match. The photo of the track changing mechanism indicates that there are many such different paths available and in real life they are infinite!  Chances of connecting with each other become remote. But memories still remain like I said in my previous blog!  But don’t forget the lyrics and keep moving, that my friends is nature!

 मुसफ़िर हूं मै यारो

ना घर है ना ठिकाना

 

Diet! Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken!

Don’t fiddle around with your body if it is not needed!

Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken! This is a statement that needs to be uttered many times in our life! Internet and Google Baba have made it easy for people to understand the stuff and get information about almost anything. This also makes human race suddenly “smart and intelligent”! Selecting people for Nobel prizes is going to be tough in future as there are millions of people who seem be experts on almost all the subjects under the Sun!  

 

maharashtrian-full-meal

This thought came to my mind as I took part in a discussion on a WhatsApp group. Except me probably most knew a lot more on the subject of dieting! Majority had experience of 2 to 6 months on the subject. They said the diet A is a fantastic diet and works wonders. There were of course some hidden gems who did not take part in the discussion. I am not talking about any specific diet, its pros and cons! Its advantages and disadvantages! But above image which shows typical Maharashtrian square meal, if followed regularly, will ensure that no special dieting is required. We are a group of people around the age of 70. Some of us are thin and few others are plump, but only two are obese; some are fit and others are not so fit! I don’t know the actual figures but my assumption is that at least 50% from our group have some medical issue or the other, or maybe they have a history of some major health problem from the past. My judgment is that 10 to15% are lucky enough to have remained successfully free of major health issues.  

There are health experts or maybe the diet experts. Some are doctors and most are non-doctors. From what I read, majority of these are not from medical background. I had my basic question during the discussion. Who should diet? What is the age at which we should start this new regime? Under whose guidance should we start the diet? Suppose someone has diabetes issue, then should that person follow a diet which says that you must eat every 8 hours and the eating time should be not more than 55 minutes at a time? Suppose one is required to take diabetes medication three to four times a day, then it is an obvious no no! To me a majority from the group will be ineligible. Then why is it that people want to start something new, which can have effect on their health directly? Is it only for weight loss? Or is it for something else too? Is this something about novelty because people have too much time on hand? The people who have started this diet, to my knowledge, did not appear to have any weight issue.  My worry is that at our age, our body looks fit and may have dormant problems, waiting to happen hence we should be careful when start something new, and unproven method. It is claimed that a diet eliminates diabetes tablets. What is the issue if you are required to take a couple of tablets a day? Heavens are not going to fall on you!

As against this some people seriously need to do something about their weight, classic case was that of Anant Ambani. He lost 108 kgs in 18 months by natural process. https://www.indiatimes.com/health/buzz/here-s-the-secret-behind-anant-ambani-s-stunning-weight-loss-253270.html 

Of course, later on a well-known diet expert was declared to be his advisor, which was untrue. I am sure Anant must have followed a very strict regimen under medical guidance. His was a classic case where drastic things were needed under medical guidance.  

We need to understand something. Doctors are also people like you and me; they are also likely to make errors. Dieticians are not our regular doctors; how will they know about individual medical issues and about our body? I will give you an example of how tricky the situation is. I came to know about a person who had a medical issue, called vertigo. He is elder to me by about six years and lives abroad. When the vertigo attack comes, the person feels blank, dizzy, faint and gets vomiting bout for about ½ hour. Tablet prescribed to him can then be taken, once he stabilizes. I asked a question to known doctors in Pune, most said that he should stop driving, a couple of them said, no comments! But the treating doctors have told him to continue driving! (60 miles an hour?) If there is so much difference of opinion among the doctors on a serious health condition, should we start something new, as yet unproven, at the age of 70?  

To my understanding, at the age of around 70 our body has taken a lot of beating; under Indian conditions all this group is “driving on reserve tank”, using two-wheeler terminology. Average life expectancy in India is 65 years! Why not enjoy bonus life unless someone’s idea of enjoying life is going on a diet, as yet unproven! Try not to become a guinea pig, nobody is forcing you. During the discussion on WhatsApp group, a friend Sudhakar said, he feels pangs of hunger in the early morning phase. Then why? Why not enjoy your early morning chai, omelet, or fruit or whatever you eat. I am not aware if he has any specific health issue. I am sure that he is smart enough and won’t start something different if he has some health issues.  

I am aware of another diet being strongly followed in Pune. It is does not talk about timings for eating food, it says eat moderately every 2/3 hours. But the diet suggested by that expert is very much different than what we normally eat and drink! It starts with a smoothie made up of Pudina and different condiments. It suggests Jowar bread instead of Wheat bread and so on! Now at this stage of life, our eating habits are so much entrenched in us, that the followers of this diet, talk only about diet when they meet; they miss their “normal” food so much. Their socialization has come to zero. For eight hour wala diet, the socialization must have been  drastically cut down because if you are invited at different time, than your meal time,  for a drink and/or food, what do you do? Your hosts will not know that you have skipped the meal,  if there is a large crowd present for the party, but if you are invited in a small group/individually or during an office business meeting or during holiday travel how do you handle it!

There are other aspects also. Some of these people, charge you for treatment,  latest famous treatment is based on videos on internet. No consultation fee, no direct interaction with the expert- correct me if I am wrong! Another person, charges Rs.1.5/ lacs for a 5-day session in a Darjeeling resort. About others charge, I do not know. It’s about your need for a treatment, or about how much proven it is. Or maybe the expensive treatments give you bragging rights!

It reminds me of a famous fish treatment in Hyderabad; it is said that it cured asthma. What is done is that a family, who did this social work free, had a recipe for a potion! This potion they would stuff inside some small fish. This fish was supposed to be gulped (more pushed down your throat) and not chewed. I met a friend of mine after quite a few years. I was trying to fix up a time for dinner with him. But he said that he to go to Hyderabad for this treatment. He was quite gung ho and said that it was helping him to cure his asthma. I said, “How do you know it is helping you?” He said, “Oh! I go to Hyderabad every year for the treatment!” Every year? 

Something fishy!

Work is Worship!

Everything else is after WORK is completed!

                                          श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी हिरवळ दाटे चोहिकडे, 
                                          क्षणात येते सर सर शिरवे क्षणात फिरुनि ऊन पडे 

These are the first two lines of the famous poem श्रावण मासी हर्ष मानसी by celebrated Marathi poet बालकवी ठोंबरे, Balkavi Thombare! The poem is the celebration of the month Shravan from the Hindu Calendar. Every child who had taken education in Marathi in our times knows at  a least a few lines, even today. It has become part of Marathi folklore.

We were going out somewhere, while entering the car a drizzle started. Today we went out a couple of times and both times it was same. In one moment there was rain, the next moment a heavy shower followed by a peek a boo by the Sun! I said to Jaya, “This is typical weather for the Hindu calendar month of Shravan.” I hummed the above lines; but then I remembered that currently the Hindu month going on is Ashadh! This is due to Adhik Mass in Hindu calendar. This calendar is based on Lunar month which is 29 ½ days of our normal calendar. To compensate for this loss of days, every two and half years we have Adhik Mass.

I am good with this but there is a major issue. All Hindu festivals and everything related to the God is celebrated as per Hindu calendar. The palkhi, (https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/palkhi-the-great-tradition/ ) the Palaquin procession terminates on Ashadhi Ekadashi i.e. 11th day of the month of Ashadh. This is where the issue starts. Large number of farmers take part in the procession and the total time taken by Palkhi to reach Pandharpur is 21 days. It is expected that they complete their work in the farms and take some time off for Palkhi. For a couple of years Palkhi starts in 3rd week of June and if there is Adhik Mass then it starts later in July as per Gregorian Calendar. Our seasons are discussed based on Gregorian calendar. So, rain gods follow the Gregorian calendar. Now, how can farmers be away from work, in major part of July, when they need to be on the farms?

Palkhi, bhakti, pooja all these things are fine but if the appropriate things are not done at the right time on the farms, the produce can get damaged, quality can go down! In fact, all the crop could go bust! How to do the right things? Has this ever been discussed in farming community? The farming depends on vagaries of weather, market conditions, disease and many such variables! So, if they remain away from the farms at the wrong time, then I shudder to even think what can happen. 21 days is not a small time to be away.

This brings us to other subject on the topic of farming. The subject that is being discussed much is the excess production in certain areas of farming. In many areas production is quite high and ever-increasing population also is not able to consume it. Let us look at Sugar. Since sugarcane is a cash crop, everybody wants to grow sugarcane. Our annual requirement of sugar is 25 million tons and we have produced 30 million tons. What to do with this sugar? International market is also weak hence the price that one gets is also not remunerative. Strikes? Government support? Government cannot support everything.

Same thing is happening in animal husbandry. Once people realized that milk production is a good business, a large number of people went into that business. They got themselves imported Jersey animals which produce a lot of milk compared to local animals. They took loans and when the going was good everything was fine. Large number of cooperative organizations have come up which collect the milk, process it and bring it to market. Excess milk is converted into milk powder. Milk collection has become quite organized but India has fully market driven system. Government may give some support but ultimately it is buyer and seller system. Excess production and supply will put the rates under pressure and which currently has happened. Solution? People are being misguided by the so-called leaders. They have asked the people to throw away the  milk every day and not give it to collection centers. With this, endless loop is formed where farmers lose more money.

Is it the way to do it? In many European countries milk business is under stress, most of the time. A few farmers do commit suicides but there is no suicide epidemic. They protest in a different way. They take their cows in large numbers to the departmental stores as a protest. They create traffic jams by bringing the tractors in the cities with the purpose of creating jam. In a factory in Japan there was some labour dispute going on for a long time. With no solution in site, the workers resorted to a novel method of protest. They kept on manufacturing shoes only for the left foot. After one week of this protest, a solution was reached. There was only temporary loss in sell but production did not suffer.

In the initial phase of independent India, there was shortage of everything. Food, Milk, Grams, Grain, you name it, we had shortage. We were forced to accept low quality grains, generally fed to animals in the US, as we had no choice. In last 40 years we have made a lot of progress. Go to any market, go to any shop. We see abundance of everything. The way we survived shortages, we have to learn the art and science of handling excesses also. It is the right balance of keeping manufacturing expenses under control, at the same time we should manage to keep final selling price under control, to keep inflation under control.

This needs a lot working together and the system must try and become independent of government support. After all government is you and me. If one hand is paid in excess then the other hand will also need money to buy costly stuff. It is all fine to say that it is middlemen or agents who are the culprits. But the major markets for everything are towns and cities. Reaching produce to the right market at the right time, needs planning, logistics, storage which many a time has to be cold storage. Even with great storage and logistics, Europe is supposedly sitting on big mountain of butter. Similarly, India is sitting on a mountain of milk powder.

It is easier said than done. Farmers have no time and money to do the marketing of their crop. This also needs money.  As far as Maharashtra is concerned, we don’t see problems in farmers from Konkan and Western Maharashtra. The milk problem appears to be problem of more developed society same as in Europe. But in eastern and north eastern areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada these problems and suicides are in large numbers. Experts need to study the reasons for this and find out the real problem behind this. It could be something social, it could be something to do with aspirations. It may be related to way the people think.

In the society, these upheavals keep on happening but the so called advanced communities keep on advancing socially in each generation. They don’t depend on government support and dole all the time. Till the time, societies don’t follow the basic ethics of “Work is Worship”, there will be problems galore. We see that in the  large cities like Mumbai and Pune, any person who wants to work has work. The fighters among them move up fast in the society, not those who want support, all the time, generation after  generation! Don’t make looking for support from someone your habit. Find your own solution, your own path. Take part in Palkhi if it is in June as hundreds of years seems to have proven that during this period basic work for the farms is done and end June and beginning July is a lull time! By all means, during your farming schedules, follow Hindu rituals but not Hindu calendar!

Palkhi! The Great Tradition!

” Do you need a reason a reason to be with God”?

Even writing about Palkhi gives a sense of feeling that cannot be explained in words. This great tradition started about 800 years back there are various theories about the same. But what we see are now two Palkhis, one is Dnyaneshwar Palkhi and the other is Tukaram Palkhi. Palkhi is a palaquin procession carrying the footprints of two great saints of Maharashtra, Dyanoba and Tukoba as they are lovingly called. As expected, the old traditional things anywhere change with time, but the basic core does not change. The belief and love of the God Vithoba is to be seen to be believed. Palkhi culminates in the city of Pandharpur a day before Ashadhi Ekadashi in the month of Jyesth (June-July). The famous Mandir of Vitthal and Rakhamai is the place where all reach and have maha puja on the next day, the holy Ashadhi Ekadashi.

This blog is mainly for people who do not live in Maharashtra so I am assuming that they may not be aware of this phenomenal event taking place every year! I have shared some lovely videos, the number of videos are a little more than what I normally share. 21 days of ritual following hundreds of years of tradition is the beacon for the society to pursue a life of piety, in this part of the country. The way faith is bringing together hundreds of thousands of people, from different walks of Life, pun of course intended, is unbelievable. I have taken liberty not to give meaning of some Marathi terms in English.

I feel that more and more experts from various fields should come together and can help make the Palkhi an even better experience. More donations can pour in to support the 21 days of ethereal journey year after year. Government does help but there needs to be a self-generating system which can make things better during Palkhi. Food, hygiene, medical help, sleeping areas all can be definitely improved. I am sure improvement in wash room arrangements will be appreciated by all. Currently all the work is mainly done by small organizations, they provide food stalls, tea stalls and many such supporting things. But if this is available all through the 21 days, people will be happier and will continue this pious journey for years to come. This is one tradition that has not diluted in the essence of what is achieved and what all are looking for! The meeting with their beloveds Vithoba- Rakhumai on Ashadhi Ekadashi.

Tukoba Palkhi starts from Dehu road and Dyanoba Palkhi starts from Alandi. They merge in the city of Pune. The people walk the 250 kms distance in 21 days. This annual pilgrimage is called wari and those taking part in wari are warkaris. There and many other Dindis (is a sub group of Palkhi) honouring various saints that join the procession on the way. There is one Dindi that joins Palkhi from as far as 550 kms. It comes from a town called Ankali in Karnataka. This Dindi is led by two white horses and has 50 people in it. This tradition has started 185 years back. They travel from Ankali to Alandi in 11 days to join the Palkhi!

Along with the Dindi (Palkhi) procession, service (seva) to the poor and needy, like Amrut Kalash (annadana – donation of food), Narayan seva, medical help and building and repairing of rural infrastructure, is done. This is known as Seva Dindi.  From last two years “Niramal Wari” has also started to keep all villages clean during the Wari.

It is believed that participation in Ashadi Dindi and Seva Dindi helps an individual in many ways by bringing good health, peace & prosperity in his life. Chanting the continuous glory of the God in the Ashadi Dindi procession and Seva Dindi purifies an individual, there is an inner cleansing that takes place in Mind, Body and Spirit and the participants tend to lose their individual identities and experience bliss. It develops all aspects of human personality and helps us understand the true purpose of Life.

Management in Wari is a great wonder. It can possibly be compared with the Dabbewalas of Mumbai (http://mumbaidabbawala.in/) for precision without having any modern management tools. Their simple target is to meet Vithoba on Ashdhi Ekadashi in Pandharpur, their only tool is faith!  Most of the people taking part in Palkhi are uneducated or less educated farmers. In recent past, highly educated people have started taking part and one Dindi is called IT Dindi. There are thousands of people taking part in the Palkhi.

The whole is divided into a sub groups called as Dindi. There are more than 200 Dindis on each route. Each Dindi has between 100 and 500 members. The Palkhi is at the center of the Wari procession and around half the number of Dindis are ahead of the Palkhi and the other half are behind. All Dindis are assigned their number and position in the procession and the sequence is strictly followed. The numbers are mentioned as follows: e.g. 5th Dindi ahead of Palkhi. There are many unregistered Dindis also, who join the Wari, they walk well ahead or extreme back of the official Wari procession.

The timetable of Wari route is published well in advance and is strictly followed. It is well defined and minute details are made available including starting location, the location of breaks including lunch, rest, night stay location. Palkhi follows its timetable strictly and things like, inclement weather, heavy rains are simply ignored. None of the warkaris are seen with any special gear against the rains though it is high rainy season in Maharashtra.

Every morning, early dawn, after worshiping the Saint’s footwear, Paduka in Marathi, the Palkhi sets out at 6 am. A Tutari (wind instrument) is blown thrice to alert all Warkaris. At the first signal, all Warkaris get ready to leave. At the second signal, the Dindis stand in the queue as per designated sequence and at the third signal, they start walking. After 4 to 5 km, they take a quick break for breakfast. They take break for lunch as per the given schedule. Though they have their own arrangements for food, many people and organizations are taking part in giving support, this number is increasing day by day! They provide, water, medicines and many things required on a daily basis. Yesterday I read about a group of barbers who provided free shave to those who wanted it. It is said to be a question of faith. There are many people in support system who give their day, though probably they lose their daily wages on that day. This is simply done for their beloved Vithoba!

Every Dindi has one truck or a similar vehicle where the luggage and food material is kept. This is used at the night stay location every day. The Warkaris just carry the emergency material, Tal, Abhang book etc. during walk. The management ensures that the tents are set up and the food is prepared before the respective Dindi arrives at the location. The Dindis also decide the sequence in which the Abhang to be sung. Most of the Dindi members know all the Abhang but the newcomers carry the small book while walking. At any point of time, only one Abhang is sung in the Dindi. The warkari who adorns the garland of Tulsi is called as Malkari. The person who carries Veen in the entire journey is called the Veenekari. These persons have a special status in the Dindi and whole management is driven by them. Any dispute during travel between the Dindis is resolved by them at the stay. Though it’s a huge mass of humanity, I have rarely heard of any serious disputes ever taking place, thanks to Vithoba! Can we humans always keep same faith in day to day life and live the life of Warkaris? We read of murders taking place based on very minor disputes!

From last few years, the additions of doctors have improved the medical facilities in the Wari. The doctors do take care of the members who have got infected or become weak during travel due to walking. There are a few professional doctors, who close their city practice and devote their 21 days in the wari and take care of the Dindi people every year.

The stay arrangements of each Dindi are well defined and planned at every location. Most of the Dindis make stay in the temples available in village or in the tents.

What do people earn by walking the walk? The zeal with which it is done year after after, shows that it is not the journey but their faith in Vithoba to help the achieve the life of piety. With such large number of people keeping aside time, in their yearly schedule, to go and meet Vithoba, it’s a good sign for the society. My cousin Prafulla, who retired as an engineer, and teaches yoga, joins Palkhi every year for ten days! He is 70 plus. I am going ask him after he comes back this year, why does he take part every year? I am sure he will say, ” Do you need a reason  to be with God”?

Vitthal Vitthal Jay Hari Vitthal!

Life’s Priorities!

Decide life’s priorities and try to give closure to events!

I heard recently about  death of someone at the age of around 70. He was a professional working in a consulting company. He had an accident within office premises and died a few days later. Both his children were in the US at that time, one of them rushed back home. The other did not come. We went and met the family and while sharing their grief with us, the mother told us that it was a family decision that the other child will not come. The reason, he had visa issue in the US and hence could not travel outside US with a fear that he may not be able to go back to the US!

What is the meaning of life? When we are born we are not invited to be born but are a result of relationship between two persons, who follow the natural process of procreation. So, when we are born we have no control on our sex, family, place of birth and time of birth. Even the couple does not have control on the sex of the child born! Some of them follow method of “trying’ to have male child by illegal routes (at least in India) of sex determination and abortions. So, it is possible that the embryo formed may never be born if the parents don’t want it to be born. Maybe hundreds or thousands of Rani Laxmibai’s, Indira Gandhi’s, Kalpana Chwla’s or Indra Nuyi’s of this world have been lost to the mankind even before they were born, as someone did not want a girl child!

What makes a family? A family is unit of people where we have parents, children, maybe grandparents. The families are made up of circles which sometime cross each other. To me the inner most circle is husband, wife and children. The grandparents come in the next circle and uncles, aunts and cousins come in the circle after that. Friends come somewhere in between. The death I mentioned above happened in the first circle. Nothing in this world is so important that when death happens within this first circle, including visa issues,  person can not be with the family. To me it is okay, if you miss a joyous occasions but one should never miss the sad events for any reason, especially deaths in the first circle. What could be sadder than the death of your own father? What family decision are we talking about? The worst-case scenario would have been that the prodigal son would have been required to move back to India for good. India is not a jungle. There are opportunities galore in India. Even the senior level ex expatriates are now taking up jobs in India.

Will this prodigal son ever be happy to continue living in USA or where ever he lives in future? When you do not attend the funeral of your own father, will you be able to ever overcome what you did? When you don’t give closure to such events they keep on haunting you! To my knowledge the relationship between father and the son was normal. Who helped him to take this decision? His sister was much younger so it was his mother who pushed him to take this decision. Is it pragmatism? Were there no emotions involved? Did the son never feel that he should have a last look at his father? Is he a weakling or an emotionless person? Is so called better life so important?

Humans use many things in their lives like clothes, cars, laptops and cell phones. In the event of losing any of these items, we humans are quite uneasy for some time. It is not about the money aspect. Humans tend to get attached to the things they own. Homes and land are things about which humans are exceptionally emotional. I know of a family who live in another town away from Pune. They had a home in Pune. They found it very difficult to manage it. Someone suggested that they dispose it off. The owner of the house said, “Over my dead body”! This reaction is the other extreme of the reaction, compared to one by our prodigal son. He thought that he need not even have a last look at the dead body. Maybe for humans land and homes are above your dead father, in the pecking order!

When we use clothes during the day, they get soiled. Next day we change them, wash and iron them for reuse. The clothes are as good as new again. This does not happen in case of us humans. We spend the day in the same clothing, humans also get soiled and next day after bath they are new again. Are they? No, they are not. Humans have mind. The soiled body may become as good as new again. But there is no simple solution to cleanse mind. The “soiling” of mind does not get “cleaned” as easily like clothes and our body! Sometimes there are deep injuries to the mind, sometimes some part is torn. The event of death mentioned above, and of not being able to attend the funeral of one’s own father, can damage and spoil mind’s fabric to a large extent! Maybe damage will be somewhat irreversible! There is a saying, “time is the great healer of everything” but I am not sure how this absence during father’s death will affect human mind. Will time heal the damage 100 percent?

Friends be careful when you do anything in life. Sometimes you may unknowingly damage someone’s mind by your action or your inaction. This can happen in lovers, this can happen in close friends, this can happen in family! Before concluding anything, think twice if you feel that the interaction can cause irreversible damage. We humans are very sensitive people and we need to decide life’s priorities. Being pragmatic is not good in all situations. The damage that occurs to one’s mind or soul is invisible many  times. Materialistic things are not ultimate things in life. Most important for any humans  in life, is to have empathy. Person with empathy will think twice, if required thrice to ensure that the other person’s mind is never disturbed, damaged or torn. Mind you,  this is equally true in our own life too!

Was it worth it?

Play a positive zero sum game of life!

Last week we went to Seattle to attend our grandson’s 12th grade graduation ceremony. We really enjoyed the ceremony. We were also very happy to be present for the milestone event of Suyash’s life. Now he joins the university to start computer engineering course! It was a bit hectic but enjoyable. After traveling a lot around the world, our mind gets used to long flights and handling such long journeys, in a short period of time..

Yesterday we bumped into our neighbour, who is 7 to 8 years senior to me. He asked me about the ceremony and then he said that he had a query. He asked me that if it was really worth traveling all the way to US and come back, for a four day stay? Is it not physically tiring? Does it not cause jet lag issues? Was there any necessity to do it? I told him that there was a family reason to come back in four days! Now the decision! Yes, we thought it was more than worth it to attend our grandson’s milestone event!

While planning, we never discussed if it was possible to take up this journey, it was assumed that we will be able to handle it! I am pragmatic in what I do and respect our age which is nearing 70! Fortunately, both of us are reasonably fit! But we did take precautions to make our journey less arduous! We took a flight from Pune to Delhi and slept for a few hours at the airport transit hotel. Then we took our 14-hour flight to Vancouver! Similarly, after 14-hr flight back from Toronto to Delhi, we stayed overnight at the transit hotel; we slept for straight six hours and took a flight back to Pune at 8.30 next morning!

First and foremost is that we were not trying set a record, making the short trip with longest journey! The situation at that time demanded we do it. Secondly, it was possible both physically and financially to handle this. There was no specific requirement to reach Pune by taking a late-night flight! With all conditions being suitable, we decided to go ahead with our plan.

Our lives are divided in four stages of childhood, education and entry into married life, matured life after 40’s when things are both hectic and are stabilizing. Lastly, it’s the golden period in our life when most of our responsibilities are over and financial requirements are much less for our day to day things. In first two phases we really don’t have much freedom and means to take our own decisions. In most cases decisions are taken by someone else. In last two phases, we can take our own decisions.

Question remains whether it was really worth it? This calls for understanding of what life is. Life to me is sum total of small events, in life. The events can be routine, some could be milestone events. Some are happy events, some are sad events. For happy events we come together to spread the joy; in sad events we come together to be with each other, to support each other. By sharing the joyful events we multiply the joy and by sharing the sad events, we divide the sorrow! This to me is the basic principle of life!

Life is never a big event full of joy! It is small events that make it joyful! Eating food every day in a five-star hotel is not fun. But if you go to such places once in a while it’s fun! We don’t go there only for food. It is the ambience, the atmosphere that adds to the joy. No food can beat your home food if we consider only the food aspect. But it is the planning, getting ready, getting decked up and meeting a few friends in that atmosphere, which creates joy.

But events like taking your child or grand-child to play in a garden, eating bhajias while it is drizzling in monsoon, meeting a long-lost friend suddenly after a long time are the events that add to our joys! Similarly, events like illnesses in the family, failure of someone in family/friends to achieve a goal, (there is always a second time) your favourite team losing in a sporting event are the small sad events that add up to our sorrows. It is sum total of joys and sorrows that makes our life!

With families spreading world over, due to migration, it is becoming tougher to be present in both joys and sorrows! Sometimes, it is not possible because of financial constraints, sometimes it is not possible due to health reasons, for family to be together for even larger events of both joy and sorrow! I know a family where the son could not travel back to India due to his visa issues, when his not very old father died. That of course, is another subject for discussion. Nowadays, waiting for performing final rites of dear ones, has become quite common, as the children travel back from different parts of the world. This is a practical difficulty as timing for death cannot be predicted. But when date of an event is known, e.g marriage, engagement and so on, travel can be easily planned in advance, provided you want to attend those events. Lest we forget, events don’t wait for anybody.

Jaya was present in the US during our grandson’s birth, we could attend his 12th grade graduation ceremony. But we could not be present be for any of his birthdays. In fact, after our son moved to the US we have never attended our son’s birthday too! This time we were lucky that both the events were on the same day! With these limitations, the question of whether it was worth it becomes irrelevant! If someone is not going to attend such events, when all conditions are go and age is nearing 70, then which is the correct time to attend such events? Is it a must that “after spending so much money” (my neighbour said, I did not!) should I not have stayed in Seattle for a longer duration? What is the right longer duration?

Friends, keep on playing positive sum game of life, whether you need to travel to Seattle, or to Timbaktu! Just do it!

Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

You have options, cribbing is not one od them!

I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?