It’s Never too late, Pradeep!

pradeepgavankar

Our life is about people. It’s about our family, friends, acquaintances, and business associates. There are of course some people whom you meet during your travels! It is difficult to say how and why these relationships go forward in life. But sometimes you wonder why certain relationships did not blossom! Why did they not go to the next level? As usual, when we can’t explain something, we call it destiny. Yesterday 15th January 2019 was an important day in my life.

A couple of weeks back my friend Ram told me that our classmate, Pradeep Gavankar will be in India; he lives in Houston, Texas. I was thrilled when Ram said that another friend Milind is coordinating a lunch meeting with a group of friends so that Pradeep can meet them. I was, of course, thrilled and decided to go to Mumbai for lunch. I had no other work but to meet friends.

The thought of meeting Pradeep, face to face almost after 45 years took me down the memory lane. I had met him last when I attended his marriage. Later on, we were in touch randomly. A couple of times I talked to him on the phone when I had travelled to the USA. There were a couple of email exchanges, but I was always keen to know what was happening in his life.

It is interesting to know how I got in touch with him pre FB and WA days. One day I was surfing on the net, and I came across the photograph of Amol Gavankar. Amol was a student then. When I saw the photo, I saw some similarity with Pradeep. So I wrote Amol an email, “ If Pradeep is your dad then I am Pradeep’s classmate”. A couple of days later Pradeep wrote to me and as I have said that we have been in touch sporadically. Once we discussed about the death of our common friend Dilip Marathe. But still, the communications has remained on and off type. Honestly, there was no reason for this type of contact, but it continued that way.

Yesterday when we met for lunch, we had a lot talk and discuss and update. Let me tell you why I am thrilled. Pradeep and I go years back! We used to be neighbours, when we were in, now what can be called today, as Lower KinderGarten. If I remember correctly, it was a school run by a lady called, Avantika Kelkar, if I am not mistaken! We lived in the western suburb of Andheri in Bombay. I distinctly remember Pradeep and our homes! In late ’80 s of the last century, I had gone to visit another friend Sharad, in that area.

I made a round of the colony where we had our old homes; I was surprised to find that they still existed as old structures (which made me sad!) From Andheri my father was transferred out of Bombay, and I am sure both of us did not even understand the meaning of losing touch. My father later came back to Bombay, and I joined Ram Mohan School in the 7th grade. I lived in an area Dhobi talao, famous for its cricket maidans, and also renowned for brutal killing police officers in 26/11 attack. I started catching G3 bus for school, early morning at 6.15. Somehow I knew that Pradeep was in the same school. On the second day, I met a guy my age on the bus, he also went to my school. He took the bus before my stop. I asked him if he knew Pradeep Gavankar; I had asked this question to Pradeep! It was again the quirk of the destiny that brought us back. We passed our SSC from the school, and both of us joined Elphinstone College! Pradeep stood first in our school in the board exam. Post Inter Science Pradeep joined VJTI, and I came to COEP Pune for engineering. We used to know about each other on and off! I always have this question how did we keep track of people before the Internet? Pradeep invited me for his marriage. I attended it in Bombay.

While in school and later on during education, I used to go to Pradeep’s home in Colaba. It had a lovely terrace, and we used to have the fun, but I don’t remember what used to discuss and play. Later on, they moved to an area called Bombay Central. I visited that home too! I remember that Pradeep’s father was an art professional.

Though we were not in touch all these years, I had a perfect image of Pradeep as a person. The studious (in school he was known as a scholar!), a gentleman, soft-spoken, mature (even in school days) and of course mischievous. When we met yesterday, we were discussing my cancer treatment. He asked me, “Is rest to your throat not recommended? Oh! Sorry, that is out of the question! Nobody can ever tell you that”, he said with a smile!

Pradeep, let me tell you, now that long lost friends have been found, there is no way I am going to let you go missing again. In Cricket parlance, we did have a couple of innings but did not utilise them to score runs. But now in this new innings, that too in our Golden Period, let us not let go each other and have fun! As usual, I will be boisterous about it, and you will enjoy in your quiet fashion.

For records purpose, Pradeep went to the US and did his PhD in Civil Engineering area. He is a renowned expert in harbours and other such areas. I am yet to get a full update on what he did Professionally. Rest assured that I am going to fill your inbox with links for my blogs. Pradeep, I know that a human has to write his quota of words during his lifetime. You did much more than what I am doing these days, during your education and professional work. You know that half the time I used to be in punishment mode while in school, standing outside the class! Destiny seems has caught up with me and making me complete the writing quota!

We got ourselves yesterday connected on WhatsApp when Pradeep sent me our photo (displayed at the top) taken during the lunch yesterday, and he captioned it as “Long lost friends!” My reply to him was

“Hey Pradeep, it was great to meet you and chat with you. But it was like we were given the wine for approval  before giving the go-ahead to serve our Dom Perignon! So let us makeup and finish our bottle of wine. I know the cellar is full of many more vintage bottles. Here is a link for word document where links for many of my blogs are given. Choose what you like.”

https://1drv.ms/w/s!Aq4ckSwupy2SmbgiEwplNlSwoIT0qg

I really mean it Pradeep, and my travel to Mumbai yesterday was really worth it! So long friend till my next message or the next call!

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Modern Slum!

I have lived in Pune and Mumbai for most of my life. No doubt these are some of the better cities to live in India. Mumbai with its financial clout and Pune with its educational and cultural diversity are places people look forward to settling down. People feel that those who want to work will always find a job in these two cities. With this change, cosmopolitanism has captured roots in a big way in these cities. This change is especially felt in Pune as it had more “closed’ culture compared to Bombay when I moved to Pune in late ’60 s of the last century. I can tell many stories on this subject, but that is a subject for another blog.

About ten-twelve years back we wanted to move to an independent home, but from long term view, we decided to buy a townhouse in a new colony. It is a lovely colony. We lived in that colony till end 2013. Some family circumstances came up, we locked this home and moved to another locality, this time in an eleven-story condominium, it’s a rented home. The other day we went to visit the old house. Now both Jaya and I are nearing the age of 70. Hence there is a discussion going on regarding our stay in future. The old townhouse is an option, we have other properties too!

Yesterday, we took a call not to move there. The colony is modern with beautiful gardens for each home, with every 4th or 6th home having an extensive garden. The colony is maintained well, except for the gym amenities like swimming pool, children’s play areas, shared gardens, community hall et al. grace the society. Now you may ask me why we took a decision not to move back there.

Yesterday, while on the way out I saw that there was a group of people, men and women discussing heatedly on the beautiful well lighted tennis court. I was sure it must have been a general discussion about the celebrations for the festivals coming up shortly. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to meet some of them, so I got down from the car and entered the tennis court. Some of the ladies looked as if they had just finished a game of tennis but were not dressed up for it. They were red in the face. As I was nearing the group most common word that I heard was “Shit” shouted mainly by females. I am writing a sentence shouted, verbatim, during the discussion. “What the hell do you think of yourself”? and so on!

I was surprised. In my times, I was the Chairman of the society committee for five years. There were differences of opinion, there were heated arguments, but mature ways kept things civil. There was no shouting, there were no Shit words, and in general, people showed respect to each other. The birth of the first formal society committee happened at that time and systems were yet to be established. So there used to be some tricky issues which needed cooperation and maturity. There were awkward situations like the removal of one of the members from admin responsibilities. This person used to put Geneset diesel in his car. He used to skim money in connivance with the builder. There was no formal committee in those days. But the operative word was dignity.

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But the level to which the shouting and slanging match was heard yesterday indicated something had seriously gone wrong with the fabric of the society. I know all the involved parties personally. They do have strong views but have always been fun-loving and polite individuals. I don’t live there any more, since the last five years. In those five years, I had expected people to have become more mature and dignified! But where had the dignity gone?

I am not sure what had gone wrong yesterday. I am sure it must have been simmering for some time. I have seen glimpses of these behaviours on the WhatsApp group. But I was quite sure that when people meet face to face, the exchange of views is generally soft. WhatsApp group exchange involved writing. The way people express themselves in writing sometimes feels harsh because of the writing style. But when you are face to face, this exchange is a combination of spoken words, intonation, facial expressions and body language. Yesterday’s discussion showed the worst of all these traits in both men and women.

Let me tell you a little about the background of the people in the colony in general. Many of them are double income families, and most are having 15 to 20 years experience in their field, mostly in IT. The average new car these folks would now buy will be in the region of about a million rupees. Resold homes in the colony cost 15 million rupees.

The subject for discussion was, as my one minute stay allowed me to understand was the use of assets, in this case, the tennis court. As usual, my grey cells started whirring, and I was trying to know (I was going to use word understand, but I felt that I would never guess what was happening.) why it was happening?

  • Was it due to wealth?
  • Was it the senior positions they have achieved their respective jobs?
  • Was it due to a shortage of assets? There are 121 townhouses, and if we consider average one child per home, now there are 121 children of different ages. Some families would need a play area for kids, some would require a swimming pool and some would need a tennis court. The tennis court is the only large open area for parties, tennis, cricket, football and what have you. Even if only 30 children need to use the arena, it is going to be tricky. Then there are groups of young professionals around 25/26 years of age. These folks also need this area to play outdoors during weekends. On some Sundays, parents also play Cricket matches or Football matches. There is a significant shortfall of assets like open spaces.
  • In society, all are from the higher middle class with good income. Is it possible that some people can not handle the rapid increase in salary?

But does it mean that shouting match (or was it slanging match) is justified? During the evenings with a glass of Chivas Regal, we all curse the politicians for their crass behaviour. How would this shouting match (in front of kids) be explained? The so-called blamed person was very dignified, and his demeanour was very graceful against the rude behaviour of the ladies. I don’t know what happened later in the evening.

Where does one go from here? Can society tell the members not to behave obnoxiously? Does society have powers with them to handle personal behaviour? I don’t think so. Women’s rights organisations would have been shocked to see the response of the so-called highly educated and sophisticated ladies. Unfortunately, ladies have joined the bandwagon of rudeness in MeToo days!

I don’t want to move back to this high-end slum again!

Musings-The Life’s ways!

When you are in semi-retirement or retirement phase, you have time to look at the world with open eyes, ears and mind. Jaya and I take our grand-daughter Rhea for gymnastics training. We take our car to drop her. The lane where we go is narrow; last week the road was dug for pipeline work. Only God knows when it will back to its original condition! There are ups and downs and parking the car has become very difficult. Hence we take an auto-rickshaw to pick her up. While Jaya goes inside to pick up Rhea, I sit in the auto chatting with drivers. These chats give me a lot of insight into the life of different people.

Today’s driver had taken training as a Millwright fitter. He had worked in factories like Ruston & Hornsby and Cummins diesel. His general knowledge was quite good. I asked him why he did not continue with his regular jobs. He said that there was no one to guide him in his younger days, he is now around fifty. He wanted to become an actor and was a part of a troupe performing street shows. He never took his day jobs sincerely and lost them. If he had continued working in Cummins, he would have found himself comfortably settled, financially. But wrong decisions led him on a path of no return. Here he is now driving an auto-rickshaw to earn his living. He knew a lot about how actors had struggled in the film industry and art in general. I would have been happier if I had met him under different circumstances, where he had succeeded in his acting career. But I also found that he was not bitter about it. He was philosophical, “I am aware that only one ten thousand have reasonable success. In my case, it was not to be.” He said that their troupe continues to perform street shows for social causes.

A few days back, I met another guy. We had taken an auto and went about five meters. The auto guy had some issue, so we asked him to terminate the trip. This other guy was just behind us and immediately stopped. He said, “Please hop in, I will take you where ever you are going!” We sat in his auto and started our short journey. He said that he does not like when the auto guys refuse the fare while moving around with “On Hire” meter! He looked quite polished and chatty. I was trying to gauge his background. He said, “I only drive the auto between six pm and ten pm.”

Before I could ask him, he said that he had a day job in Pune Water Works. I thought maybe he works as stores clerk or in some such administrative position. He said, “Sir, I have done my M Sc in analytical chemistry. I work in the Lab where we keep on checking the chemistry of the city water supply.” I was pleasantly surprised. Before I could ask him why he was driving an auto in the evening, he said, “I am still unmarried. I have come from a background where most of my family and friends are not much educated. They while away their time during the day and in the evenings doing nothing. Auto driving keeps me busy, and I get to meet people like you!” I asked him, “What is so special about me? How do you know what I have done in my life?” Promptly came the reply, “ The way you were curious about my life, the way you were asking questions, I was sure you had done a lot of things in life! You were asking the questions with a lot of empathy. In my day to day life, nobody talks to me the way you did.” He thanked both of us profusely for the interaction.

These two people were not run of the mill auto-rikshaw drivers. They had something different in their DNA. The older one had the clarity that it was too late in his life for any change to take place. But still, he mentioned that he had decided to ply the auto to the best of abilities. The younger was a real gem, and I hope he continues to do better in his day job. From the ten minute talk I had with him, I felt that he was sincere; he was hard working. I hope that destiny will pull him out of his current strata and give his traits justice.

Friends, you need to put your apprehensions away and take the opportunity to speak with unknown people. You may not meet them in your life again, ever. You can get priceless information from them. You can know about their aspirations, you may find a person who wanted to become an actor but failed. Still, he did not show bitterness. But one thing I realised that even though his acting career failed, he continued with his passion for acting. I sincerely hope that at the least young man’s dreams will be fulfilled.

In the year 1973, I joined the industry as a trainee along with two of my friends. We were all Metallurgists by training. I had done my Masters too! (But to be honest, we had zero knowledge of the real world) For the first couple of years, we worked in non-ferrous foundry section. We had a guy called Sakharam Gund, he was leading the pack of workers. He had worked in this foundry for five years and had reasonable, practical knowledge. We always took his help to learn the ropes. Our works manager generally had an attitude that we had to learn things on our own! We came very close to Sakharam during that period. One day Gund’s father expired. He lived nearby. We went to meet him. We sat with him for fifteen-twenty minutes. As we were about to take his leave, he said, “Sir, you have come to our house for the first time, and I don’t know if you will ever come again. Please have some tea.” It was very embarrassing. The body was still in the house! Under these trying circumstances, we drank tea to honour his request; it also showed his love! We had met on a personal level for the first time!

People express their feelings about you in different ways. These are small gestures done subtly! In my thinking, I would have never have offered tea in similar circumstances. But when Gund offered tea, I had to think out of the box and accept his love! To me, everything else is immaterial other than the respect and love for each other. I distinctly remembered this incident which had trained me for my future about interpersonal relationship! Life goes on, but it is the people that matter!

Emotional Turmoil!

While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.  

Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.  

As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.

As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.  

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.  

He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.  

Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.

He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family.  But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.” 

Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!” 

I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take!  As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.

This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.  

There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.  

After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.

I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!

Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part II

This is the part two of the saga my friend Prakash Nirgudkar went through. The link for the Part I is below. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-i/

Pensive Prakash

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What is destiny? What is the definition of destiny? Prakash’s story is what destiny is all about. Destiny took Prakash through a journey which he may never have imagined when he left Pune for the trek in September 2012. At the same time the doctors, the family members were all the time hoping against hope that Prakash will overcome this illness. It was Kavita’s destiny that she was to win the impossible battle. It was the doctor’s destiny that they were supposed to cure a most difficult case. The destiny to me is crossing of destinies of various people, some of your dear ones and some unknown to you!

Prakash is made of different stuff is now taken. On a personal level, I feel that Prakash is nothing less than Havaldar Abdul Hamid, Captain Batra who fought the war for our country and won the battle against all odds! They were honoured with Paramveer Chakra! Prakash is nothing less than that. Prakash’s family background is very normal with various professionals, including him, who did well in professional life. But from where did this special trait blossom out? I am sure it was hidden in him all the time and but he never had to face such a tough situation in life where his indomitable spirit was tested to the limit.  

Healthy, hale and hearty Prakash left Pune in September 2012 but when he came back to Pune, was taken straight to a hospital for further treatment fighting the toughest battle of his life! Pune doctors had the advantage of knowing details of what Delhi doctors had done. They took over seamlessly. But life for Kavita and Nandita continued to remain tough as there were continuous ups and downs. The only advantage was that they were in their own city Pune. Going home was distant as Prakash was far from normalcy. Every day and sometimes night would come up with a different twist in the story. Kavita had decided to stay with Prakash in the hospital, would go home very rarely. Homefront was managed by young Nandita. 

The first aim of the treatment was to remove the infection completely and increase Prakash’s strength! Any procedure or surgery was accompanied by extremely severe bouts of pain. This was accompanied by strong Anti-biotics and painkillers! Trauma took him one step backwards after every surgery but Prakash is the epitome of a person who appears to have reached Nirvana. Of course, he must have felt the pain but how he could bear it without showing any emotions is one thing even Kavita may not be able to explain. This is one aspect of the human attribute which is always difficult for me to understand. Where is this power hidden? How does it come out? Where is the trigger for that? Natural human tendency is to squirm when in pain, and howl when in extreme pain. Pakya, tell me one of these days how you managed that! I feel that this is internal training and gift from HIM! 

Two major things that had remained to be done were curing the toe injury and rebuilding of the right hand. For me, it was simple, “rebuilding of hand”! But what did it involve? Since the arm was in a fully exposed state, to rebuild it in a step by step manner was an ordeal! Planning the surgery also must have been tough because things look different on paper! Doctors had decided to rebuild his right arm after the infection was gone. They decided to do the skin grafting by removing the skin from the thigh and groin area. This was an extremely delicate procedure handled skillfully by the Pune Doctors. The family and Prakash had to undergo the same pain and trauma during every surgery. 

In between, Prakash was allowed to go home. Taking Prakash home was also a major event. The complete home had to be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected as Prakash’s immunity was very low. But I am sure going home after the great trauma must have helped the spirits of the family!  

Such major health events, being treated over a long period of time has its own problems. At one stage the doctor who had performed all the surgeries in Pune was on a holiday for about three weeks. Prakash started having issues with his toe injury during this period. Kavita took a decision to see another doctor; he was competent. But doubts started creeping up if the decision to see another doctor was correct. Since the main doctor was away for a long duration there was no choice. Minor surgery on the toe bone was done, successfully.  

 

There remained many such complex issues and had to be tackled. It is simply unimaginable how Prakash and Kavita handled these repetitive but new issues. I am sure that the whole family was always operated on reserve energy because it was always a small period of peace, followed by something or the other which caused and took them into a vicious circle of operation/procedure, followed by a couple of days of anxiety, followed by the dressing of the wound.  This is like running a marathon, one after another, with almost no break! 

The last and the most complex part of the saga was the final stage of the restoration of Prakash’s right hand. He was in better health and was responding quite well to procedures. In the last major operation, after completing the surgery, his hand was stitched to his stomach; it was held in that position for about 25 days. This would help proper assimilation of the graft with the whole body! Being around in such a position for 25 days is something impossible to visualize. After the hand was stitched, putting Prakash in bed from the gurney also became a complex procedure!  

It is now almost five years! Those who do not know what Prakash had gone through, would never know that he has come back from the brink of death if they meet him. He is now busy doing normal things in life and takes life as it comes. (Narmada Parikrama trek was one such activity! That is Prakash for you!) Kavita and Nandita also have gone through a major stressful period in life! But I am told that ladies handle the stressful situation much better than men. They are more expressive and men generally go into a shell during extreme stress! Finally, Nirgudkar family is back to normal life. 

Prakash, I consider myself lucky and proud that we met many moons back and became friends! I am sure we will continue to meet and share the life’s experiences and stories, and remember our COEP days, of course I am talking of Metallurgy! In case, any one of you want to get in touch with Prakash, do write to me!

This blog cannot be complete without the slide below. 

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Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part I

We read many stories in mythology, where someone gets a curse from a sage or a king! Then later the same person is given boon, conditions attached! In today’s world where everything you do is saved somewhere on a computer server, in text or image format! So, probably 2000 years hence there will not be any mythological story about Prakash, all hard facts are known and recorded. When unbelievable things were performed by humans, these turned into stories and such miracles were explained in terms of curses and boons! To me, such boons can be explained as courage shown by Nirgudkar family and by Prakash in particular to overcome impossible odds. The curses to me are destiny!

PakyaPhoto1

I got my Master’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering from COEP, the famed 150 plus years old institute from Pune. One thing I learned during those two years of Post Graduate studies was to do everything sincerely and keep the commitments. Prakash Nirgudkar urf Pakya was one-year senior to me in the Metallurgy department. We used to live in the dormitory. He is a pleasant person with an ever-smiling face. He is smart and very cooperative. After our first degree, there were very few students in the Master’s course. We were both busy and still had enough time. One thing we had decided was to brush up card playing skills, mainly Rummy. We had one more partner in this endeavour, Naidu urf “Todya”! Why he was given this nick name “Todya” is still a mystery to me. Three of us mostly had our sessions, in the afternoon. We had decided that our course timings were flexible, contrary to college rules. Sometimes we erroneously committed to play cards which clashed with some course. But the commitment was a commitment, nobody ever broke it!  

Prakash had so many good things in him but I had never imagined that he would be a great fighter, a survivor. The main trait that came up during the recent catastrophe in his life, was the indomitable spirit. What a human is capable of only comes out during tough times one faces in life. The old cliché of “When things get tough, tough get going” fits perfectly to Prakash and his family. I had written about Prakash in my blog a couple of weeks back, the link for which is given below. 

https://wordpress.com/post/panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/5910 

Yesterday, I read the book written by Kavita, his wife. The name of the book is “Surviving the toxic frostbite”. Below is the e link for the book for purchase.  

https://www.bookganga.com/R/7VXM8 

It needs downloading of book reader by Book Ganga. It can not be read on other readers.

The book is captivating, it is about the journey of Prakash when he went for a Himalayan trek; the second part is the horrendous event that happened in his life. He was a victim of severe frostbite; along with that he caught an extremely rare infection called necrotizing-fasciitis or in common language flesh eating bacteria attacked his right hand. The link about the infection is given below. 

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2 

Even though I knew sketchy details of what Prakash went through, while reading the book I felt very tense in the second half. One suggestion! The photos of necrotizing-fasciitis shared in the book are not for weak hearted persons; I am not really sure if even many doctors have ever handled such severe infection. Obviously, the details of the treatment are all there in the book by Kavita. Hence I will not write about the details; but I am writing about human reactions, their behaviour, families and goodness of people under such tyring situations. Such good stories about humans help and support, bring back confidence in us that all is well with this world! Terrorists, accidents, economic crises are aberrations in real life!  

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Kavita, their daughter Nandita and son Prasanna have handled the major crisis in the Nirgudkar family bravely! Kavita is the person around whom the whole saga was revolving, she was the General. She was pushed into a battle which we will never hope or  want even our enemies to fight! Prakash in the initial period was as good as in trance! Even later he was so weak that Kavita was the one who held the fort! Kavita Salute! I can also understand the predicament of Prasanna who lives in the USA. He could rush for  sometime a couple of times but worrying long distance is a tough call. Nandita has handled everything with aplomb at a very young age!  

Human touch in the saga started right in the Himalayas. The team had gone twenty thousand feet above sea level, in an extremely difficult weather and terrain. At that height, Prakash had started feeling weak and his stomach problems started. Stomach issue had started draining his reserve energy really fast. As it is, at the height of 20000 feet, the body functions on reserve energy. The porters and his colleagues physically lifted him and brought Prakash down to the manageable heights. From there he was brought him into civilization in trucks and jeeps provided by ITBP. His colleagues were equally tired but had no illnesses, luckily. They rushed him to Delhi airport. During the journey, he had become so weak that his soiled clothing was required to be changed by his colleagues.  

His right hand showed a rash and had started swelling, and its colour had become ominously dark. All airlines refused to give him the boarding card. The airport doctor gave him a fitness certificate but still, he was denied boarding, looking at his hand. It was a blessing a disguise because when Delhi doctors diagnosed him for necrotizing-fasciitis, they said that air travel under these circumstances would have proved fatal. The doctors in casualty area at the hospital, where Prakash was taken were following routine procedures. The doctor from the airport came behind the ambulance on his own and told the doctors to treat the case as a serious emergency. Prakash was then put on the fast track and without even entering his name anywhere he was wheeled into Operation Theater for emergency surgery. Had this surgery got delayed, Prakash was already having a dialogue with Chitragupt; anything could have happened. This was Prakash’s first close shave with death, with many more to follow later. Airport doctor was the first of many souls who went out of their way to help Prakash. 

At this juncture, Kavita was unaware of the seriousness of the situation. She and Nandita rushed to Delhi from Pune, expecting to come back in a few days. They could never have budgeted what they had to go through even in their dreams! In terms of human goodness, the trek coordinator from Delhi, who was just an acquaintance but he went out of the way to help Kavita to get a base close to the hospital. Initially, he put them up for a few days with a lady; it was a god sent gift for them in the unknown territory of Delhi, that too under really trying circumstances.   

Delhi doctors managed to bring Prakash to the level of taking a journey to Pune. Flying was out of the question for medical reasons. They took a twenty-hour journey to Pune by train. Prakash was allowed to travel by Delhi doctors under two conditions. First was that a male nurse must accompany and second was Prakash was to be taken from Pune railway station to a major hospital! Luckily no events took place during this journey made arduous because of Prakash’s health.

I follow a rule of limiting my blogs to a certain number of words for it to remain readable. But this human saga that my friend Prakash and his family had to go through is making it difficult for me stick to my rules. I will share the concluding part of this event with you in two parts!  Tomorrow, I will publish the second part!

In the second part, I will write about Prakash getting back from the brink (his condition was still very delicate) and rehabilitation which was another journey for one plus year. 

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 Link for Part II is below!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/

 

         

The Genesis of Enigmatic Society!

प्रत्येक वस्तुला जागा

प्रत्येक वस्तू जागेवर

कराल असे तुम्ही

तर कामे होतील भराभर

This is a saying in Marathi that Jaya remembered from her childhood. Renowned social worker Gangutai Patwardhan used to say this! It translates as below.

Each thing has its own place

The thing should always be in its place

If you follow this

All your work will be done quickly

This is exactly what Japanese concept of 5S says. 5S is a method/Japanese concept for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). See the yellow box! The blue box is equally important!

5s-explanation_med_hr

Our society, our lives are like a workplace. Rich and the poor share the same roads and infrastructure. So it is a responsibility of rich, poor and the middle-class to maintain the infra properly, and follow the rules of the society. To me, it is the responsibility of middle-class as their number is large, they are educated and many of them have seen the world.

But the more we change the more we remain the same. I remember when the whole world was holding its collective breath when 1st January 2000 dawned and Y2K was supposed to get things crashing world over, due to the supposed computer glitch. Indian computer companies made a giant-killing by providing a fantastic solution. There were high hopes that in the 21st century finally, India urf Bharat will look forward to getting its deserved place in the world order.

Where are we today at the end of 2018, almost twenty years from the beginning of the new century, but has our society improved? As usual, we have taken two steps forward and three steps backwards. This morning, I was standing in my balcony on my 7th floor home, chatting with my friend Dilip on phone. I saw a scooter stopping in front of a bungalow. An apparently educated lady simply dumped her garbage and drove off. I was observing for the next 15 minutes and saw ¾ more people do the same.

This is a very normal happening in India. We are in Yo-Yo mode all the time, we improve in certain areas and we go back two steps in another area. We have a global company chief in Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi. We have ISRO sending Satellites after Satellites in space. Then we have people throwing their trash as they wish. We have Municipal Corporations dumping drainage water in rivers without processing. Industrial waste is also dumped in rivers without processing any many places. Under the garb of religion, dead bodies are dumped in the river Ganga!

When Anna Hazare started his Journey for Jan Lokpal Bill in the year 2011, not many had given him a chance of getting through without a great struggle, if at all. But one point which almost nobody had budgeted for was the great awakening of the Middle Class because of this movement. This middle-class was to be the vehicle for India’s journey towards “advanced” society.

Who are middle-class people and what is middle-class mentality? I would define a middle-class person as a person, who is like you and me, who is coming up in life. When one heard TV discussions read articles in those times, it was felt as if being middle class was really rude. The intelligentsia on panels was shocked to see the middle class coming on the road to express their views and argue when middle-class was supposed to be docile.

Now that the awakening had taken place, the same Middle class was being blamed as being too vociferous, too impatient, too aggressive and so on. The intelligentsia had hoped that the middle class will always remain dormant and never go against the proven theories of remaining mute. But with new electronic mediums of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS and so on, this group found a way of expressing their views and communicating openly with others.

There is a flip side to this. Not every cause needs Anna’s intervention; the local issues should be handled locally but the onus is still on the middle-class to lead.

You don’t need Anna to get local roads repaired. You don’t need Anna to solve your daily water problems. You don’t need Anna to clear garbage on the roads! Let Anna handle national level issues like Lokpal. But we don’t bother about our own behaviour. We spit betel leaf juice anywhere. We have unique behaviour on the Pune Mumbai expressway. There are two toll stations on the expressway. After each one, there are washrooms. But some of us drive about 5 Km ahead and then urinate in open. Our government has made laws, especially for villages, which ensures that any person who wants to stand for elections must have a toilet at home. People were still found going to their fields for morning ablutions, some men said they felt manly if they used the field instead of using toilets!

While chatting with friends, the subject of “State of our Nation” always comes up. The conclusion is always the same. Everybody is confused. There is a saying in Marathi, “हे असच चालायचं!” Things will never change. Someone I know was a sophisticated trainer in world’s renowned airline. Every Saturday, he would go a Mandir and offer a small container full of oil to a deity. It was poured in an area from where it would go down the drain. I don’t know how much oil was wasted every day; this could have been given to charity instead of wasting it. This is a story of a highly trained engineer. If the so-called educated people take part in such rituals, remain stuck in such beliefs, how will we ever reach the “Developed” state? I have seen many roadside tea stall owners performing a ritual. They brew their first cup of tea for the day and throw it on the ground. I asked a few of them why they did it? I was told that it gives them good luck for the days business. I asked them why not give it free to someone deserving instead of wasting it, they had no answer.

For our country to become “advanced” what needs to be done, I do not know. Every person’s definition of “advanced” will be different. As long as we don’t come out of the mentality of two steps forward and three steps backwards, the so-called advancement is not possible. For the last 15 years, we are showing economic growth of 7 to 8 % year to year. Effects of this growth are visible but our “backward” thinking dilutes this progress. According to me, the middle-class is the growth engine of the nation but this class also still remains in Yo-Yo mode. In technology, in modern methods, the middle class shows the forward thrust; at the same time the rituals, acts of blind faith are celebrated on a much larger scale because now there is money around. Even in today’s times, I have seen a lady, our relative, go into trance during a religious function. She is a normal college educated lady like ladies we meet normally, but still, she went in a trance, which at least I thought was happening only in uneducated class. The blog below gives my thoughts on such events.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

Let me as usual end up on a positive note. We have terrific enterprise, enthusiasm. Our nation is a nation of young people with energy. Let us put this energy to proper use and make sure that we don’t take any backward steps. If everybody folllows the Marathi lines above, then trash will always go in trash bins, vehicles will be parked in their places, roads will not be required to be repaired after every monsoon! We may start “looking” like a developed nation.