Paradox, thy name is India!

Disrespect & Indiscipline are the main reasons for lack of cleanliness!

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A friend Shreekant, went to Europe for a month and mostly lived in Holland with relatives. On his Facebook page he shared some very nice write-ups about the pleasant weather, systems and so on. In his comments there were natural references and comparisons with Bharat desh. He made a very prudent and specific statement that we tend to be very harsh on ourselves when we compare with other societies and other nations, we are a young nation with very old civilization. I totally agree with him because there are a lot of complexities involved in our nation and life! I have always been wondering for the reasons for these paradoxes! Honestly I am never able to come to any conclusion for my question, WHY? It is why to everything.

Let us not say that in India, people live mostly in Villages, it is old story. There has been a big migration from villages to towns and cities. I know why this is happening. It is the abject poverty and lack of job opportunities in villages that pushes people towards cities. Recently I was in Europe, in larger cities and smaller towns and sometimes in villages. Obviously my mind too started making comparisons. Both in cities and smaller places things were relatively similar in Europe. In India also we have similarities but of the wrong kind! We are extremely capable as a society of making our cities & villages dirty! Cities like smaller places can be really dirty! That is the first impression that we carry whenever we travel outside India to developed nations.

 India as a country has made great progress  in satellite technology,  they are well known in IT field! India is the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Suzuki car production in India is much larger than their production in Japan! India has slowly started doing well in sports at world level! Indian engineers, doctors, scientists have done pretty well on global scene. This is where the paradoxes begin.

Let us begin at the beginning. How long have we been one, as a nation? Before 1947 there was no concept of India. We may sing paeans of glory of Bharat, जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा यह भारत देश है मेरा! It feels good to listen to the song but the ground realities are quite different. Indian continent was made up of hundreds of small kingdoms ruled by the Rajas and Nabobs. For the first time in the history of the continent, area from Pune to Atak was under the rule of Peshwas. That too was for a brief period. Many years before that, Mughal invaders came to “India” and ruled. Before 1947 British ruled us for 150 years, using a small army and big brain. British had clearly understood that since there was no “India” as such, they could easily use the divide and rule strategy. Under the non-Indian rulers most of the population never had any rights; the benefits of technology hardly reached them. British made sure that industrial revolution benefits reached only where and when it was beneficial to British. There was no “All India” policy.

European countries have existed as nations for centuries, sometimes by different names, some have split and some have merged. Japan has been in existence for a long time. China also is around for a long time. United States and Canada have also been existing as countries for a couple of centuries. Most important aspects of these countries is, though there has been variance in different parts of the nations, mostly they were quite coherent in food, culture, clothing and language. Except for the obviously large countries, all others are pretty small, smaller than the many Indian States of today. Ruling and managing such countries was much easier.

Indian complexities start with 31 major languages, with that many different cultures, as many different types of foods including the way we eat. But somehow one thing we have in common across the cultures of our great Indian continent is total disrespect for laws and rules, total disregard for each other’s personal space, disregard for maintenance of personal infrastructure of all types. I am not talking of government infrastructure! You must be wondering how I have not written anything about cleanliness! Lack of cleanliness is the end result of everything.

Disrespect for law is ingrained in our DNA. We have disrespect for authority. The respect starts with respect to next individual. In Hindi movies whenever a young person meets elderly person, they are always respected by touching their feet! In mythology we have great stories of Ram, Laxman, and Bharat who go really out of the way to respect their eldest brother Ram. When it comes to public life how respect suddenly vanishes? Though we have our old traditions for respect! In north India even a new born child is addressed with respect, using word आप. Luckhnow culture is known for पहले आप culture, meaning please go ahead, I will follow you! I feel that we make use of traditions conveniently! What could be the reason for disrespect? The Indians were always ruled by others for centuries. Main reason could be it is a way of protesting against authorities. But we forget that now it is our country, so how this attitude will help?

Disrespect to others creates “I don’t care attitude!” I feel like spitting in public, I will spit! In our society chewing paan or betel leaf and/or tobacco, and of course spitting the juice in public, is “culture”! Basic things like standing in a queue are handled so differently. People sometimes stand so much near you in your personal space that you have to tell people to move away. You will be jostled, pushed. Most of the time, someone will always try to jump the queue claiming “I have only half a minute work”! I also find problems in traffic. When I stop for red signal, at least 5 to 10% of times guys on bike will try to snake their way in non-moving traffic banging on my side mirror! Personal space, never heard of that!

Stopping for a red signal is an international norm. We will try to jump signal if policeman is not around, else we think that stopping over zebra crossing is our birth right. This is disrespect to others and law! Laws are made for smooth running of the society. In any society a small percentage of people are bound to break the laws. But in India very large numbers break laws with impunity. Once I was driving thru a green signal; after I passed, I heard commotion. Suddenly around 15 bikers just broke the red signal and drove thru. A policeman was there but how can a single policeman catch 15 people? Two wheelers are supposed to carry two passengers; it started with taking additional baby in the lap. Then it changed to two adults plus two children around the age of 10 or 12. One of them sitting on the petrol tank of the bike. Mind you this is not an exception!

Personal infrastructure is the area around homes, condos or where you live! In olden days there were small homes generally one story or ground level. Cleaning homes and pushing the dust outside home was the definition of cleaning the home. There was no concretization, there was no paper, so cleaning was pretty simple, push dust outside in the dust around your home. Things have now changed drastically and homes have also changed. The amount of trash we generate is enormous. The mix has changed, there is plastic, there is metal, there is paper and there is glass. Still in many homes definition of cleaning has not much changed. At the most people collect their trash and throw it in a convenient spot on the way to somewhere, dumpsters be damned! The best way to keep things clean is to not create the trash in public spaces;  when you achieve this, you  don’t have to clean the roads. In advanced countries the trash that you generally see on roads is tree leaves and cigarette butts. Somehow developed countries have also not been able to eliminate these butts. Once my grandson Suyash, who lives in the USA, had come to Pune. From our 7th floor abode we could see a lot of buildings around. Suyash asked me, “Grandpa, why don’t they paint their homes?” They all looked pretty ungainly because they were never probably repainted after construction. Buildings were maybe 10 year old. In these ten years not even one building was repainted. With Monsoon and heat, Moss streaks make buildings not a very pretty site. I am sure people living in these buildings could definitely afford to get them repainted once in ten years! I  normally live in a colony of row houses or town houses. People just used to hang their laundry from front balcony. Only after we started fining people they reluctantly stopped it.

I feel that all the lack of discipline, disdain for laws and rules, lack of consideration for others are independent of social status, financial status, (In fact sometimes I feel that it is inversely proportional) and your education. All the cleanliness drives, swatchhata diwas are of no use if the mindset is not changed. If we as a society handle the trash prudently instead throwing stuff where ever we want, we will have cleaner cities and villages. Pune is one of the better places where sweepers sweep the roads sincerely but I would rather have sweeper less Pune. Why are we required to sweep the road instead of collecting trash? All over India there is a big drive going on from government to stop open defecation, subsidies are also offered to needy. to build toilets But in Punjab many men still defecate in fields though they have toilets at home; when asked why they do so? The reply was, “It is Manly”! God bless us! Amen! You may listen to the song जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा using link below. Tell me how you feel after listening to the song, now! 

Naysayers or anti dev!

Naysayer is one who denies, refuses, opposes, or is skeptical or cynical about something!

There is an abundance of everything in this world including the naysayers! I don’t think we are born naysayers, it is the characteristic that we develop over a period. Like all other things, this human trait gets developed over a period due to circumstances in which we grow, people we have come across, maybe ones education. But when I think about naysayers that we see sometimes, it is really difficult to judge why one becomes a naysayer. One may be opposed to an idea, or thought process but one cannot be opposed anything new, it can be a new thought or a new technology!

These thoughts came my mind while I was reading about Bullet Train project. Why does India need a bullet train? What is wrong with today’s trains? They take you from place to place, sometimes on time with some comfort. Why change the status quo? To me bullet train is not a train, it’s a concept! I am advisor to a Japanese conglomerate in India. One customer of ours wanted to visit the plants in Japan. He wrote an e mail asking what is buffer time he should keep to catch a flight from place B. He was to travel from place A to B by bullet train. He got a reply from Japan, “What buffer time are you asking about?” Our friend was not sure if the train would reach in time for the flight. When he mentioned this, reply from Japan was, “No buffer time needed! Shinkansen never gets late! Only if there is major earthquake it can get late!”  When we have bullet train in India, I am quite sure part of a system in India will reach international level! Between Mumbai and Ahmedabad it is going to stop at 7/8 stations and will improve systems in those areas! 

Shinkansen

We have all seen this, look at Metros all over India. Very rarely we see Metro trains getting late, platforms being dirty and so on. This is observed all over India. Who uses Metros? Everybody! Why this has happened? It is said that a place is modern when rich use the public transport! We as a society are open to these changes, but our naysayers don’t want them. Sometimes I feel that naysayers are worse than the politicians. They do not want any modernity or a change. Kolakata metro is more than 20 years old but still remains spik and span!  

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It is not about modern technology, it is about modern thought process. Modern methods that new technology can usher. When Mumbai Pune expressway was being planned the naysayers were of course dead against it! What happens after 20 years! We cannot imagine life without the expressway. Modern Facilities, infrastructures not only involve technology but a new way of thinking. In many countries train and bus systems are so well connected that they have a single ticket which can be used across the systems. New way of thinking comes up with new solutions. Indian railways is in the process of establishing a diesel engine plant in Bihar which is expected to go live in a year or so. But world over, the thought process is shifting from Diesel to Electric! In today’s papers, there is a news item that discussion is going on with the Partners GE about trying to find out ways of discontinuing this project. Govt maybe forced to pay more than US $ 2/ billions but in the long run it is nothing but benefits! Seeds of this discussion are already sown! Naysayers will of course say, “Oh, we are wasting money!”  Govt has recently scrapped 11 power projects based on coal and have decided to go ahead with Nuclear plants! This is again having the same reason as that of diesel engine plant! These two are examples of how serious now India is about environment! 

Recently we travelled from Zurich to Frankfurt by train. Tickets were bought a couple of months in advance. When we went to Zurich and checked, I was a given a route paper saying that some track work required emergency repairs hence instead of direct journey there was a change in route. After one hour we changed the train, then we reached a very small station by another train, where there were no escalators etc. We were worried as our bags were heavy. But they had made arrangements for senior citizens; our bags were carried free of charge by porters to the other side of the station and put on a bus. The bus took us to another station about 15 kms away. At that station, we were put on a train to Frankfurt! Had there been naysayers in the railway system, they would have told us, Sorry! This is your refund! Have a great trip! What I could have done if I was given refund! Nothing and scramble for a way to go to Frankfurt! But it is positive thought process, because of which, we reached Frankfurt, only about ½ hour late!

How naysayers were against Maruti? They wanted people to continue using Ambassador and Fiat! Rajeev Gandhi introduced the idea of computerization, Manmohan Singh opened the economy in 1992! How much resistance was there! Our naysayers wanted to keep on following socialistic model where everyone remains poor! Even after their Citadel Soviet Russia had failed!

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What is the profile of a naysayer; they are generally good speakers, are against any sort of development, have lawyers in the group, an engineer is thrown in between for technical arguments, and are generally know all. What is their agenda? NGO’s preferably foreign funded, are in their gambit, with foreign trips thrown in for lucky few! Their favorite subject also include housing encroachment on hills and tree felling! If half the hills are encroached by illegal shanties it is fine but someone tries to build something legal! Heavens will fall. Good old SFO is a city on hills and there many such cities world over.

SFO

In the city of Pune where I live in India, the usual traffic issues are there. For last 15/20 years government is hoping to build a road on the hills which may take care of bottle necks! Court cases started and it was ruled that, against each tree brought down, ten new trees should be planted. Government agreed to plant 50 in place of ten. Effect, one more court case against with another issue! What is the solution for this?

In democracy these things keep on happening. Patience is what is needed! I am not arguing that there should be no opposition; in fact different views always bring out the best possible solutions, most of the times. But opposition for the sake opposition is not the way forward. Years ago, India’s well known industrial doyen Shantanurao Kirloskar had said, ” Are trees for us or are we there for trees?” Hope our society will carry forward his wisdom and make this world and especially our city Pune, a better and modern place to live! 

 

 

 

 

Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

This my life’s journey and role played by different homes in my life. I am sharing my treasure trove with you in this series!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…

 

Social behavior

I have always been thinking how a society forms, matures, and evolves. The basis for a good society is faith, empathy and accommodation. These points have nothing to do with the crime in a society. Because I feel that crime is an aberration to any society. When we say that a certain society is a good society, it is how the majority in the society behave or react to a situation.

When we travel to any place we are first exposed to roads, traffic, and public behaviour of that place. It is roads, traffic, public behaviour on roads that defines the first impression of the society, it can be orderly or disorderly. In Pune where I live, the city is supposed to be one of the better cities in India, people are generally of helping nature and soft. But what happens to them on the roads?  I am not talking of road rage! Road rage is a different matter altogether. Road rage is triggered by an event, howsoever small. Yesterday evening we were driving on a crowded road and traffic was slower than usual. Suddenly I found that some people on bikes going ahead driving on footpaths! It was not a case of random nut but there were many who were driving on footpath. Why do people do this? If they are in a hurry why not start a little early so as to reach on time.

Motorcycle guy standing at right angle to the traffic direction.

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As a society are we not trained to follow rules? Is it in our education? Is it in our culture? Or is it in our DNA? I feel that it is combination of all the aspects. I sense that the wrong elements in our DNA become more active when we are in our own city or country! Or is it related to implementation of laws? But will there be a specific law saying that people are NOT allowed to drive their bikes on footpath? Some are written rules and some are unwritten rules. I also feel that 150 years of British Rule has distinctly changed our DNA partially. The civil disobedience movement, during freedom struggle has got imbibed in our minds. As society we feel that rules made by the Govt are to be broken!

In a vast and not so rich a country like India there are issues. Availability of toilets at home and in public places has been a big problem. Current government is encouraging people by giving financial aid, making laws so that people who do not have toilets at home, though they can afford it, cannot fight an election! But how is this changing the situation? Some changes are seen but one still reads stories of people using their fields for their ablutions even though they have toilets at home! Why? Because it is manly to do so! I see on Mumbai Pune expressway people will relieve themselves in open just 30 meters ahead of public urinals! What is it? Is it brain fed? Is it I don’t care attitude? I get a feeling that DNA issues get to the top of the list.

Helmet less people

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Road traffic is one area where it is almost impossible to understand behavior of people in Pune. There is a Supreme Court ruling that wearing helmets is mandatory while driving two wheelers. But we don’t wear helmets. The argument is it’s our head, how is Government concerned? Statistics show that 99% of the deaths in two wheeler accidents are of those, who were not wearing helmets. Supreme Courts be damned!

Last week there was an incident at Pune airport. A young guy went to meet his lady friend who was transiting through Pune airport. If you buy a viewing gallery ticket at any airport, you will not be allowed to enter transit area. This gentleman wanted to meet this friend so what did he do. He had travelled a few days before to Delhi. He modified the same ticket to make it look like a valid ticket. Using the modified ticket, he entered the airport but was later caught with the modified ticket by security. Looks like brain fed is the latest norm.

Caution  board on Mumbai Pune Expressway

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Its sad to see such boards on expressway! On roads having medians, anywhere in the world, you are supposed to drive on the correct side of the road but in our great city of Pune people will drive in the reverse direction upto the distance of one kilometer to avoid a detour of a couple of kilometers. So much for the fuel conservation. Mind you these are people from all strata of the society.

Women’s rally

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On Women’s day bike rally on 8th March, an official event, there were so many ladies taking part it was amazing. This was an official event but organizers forgot to tell the ladies that they should wear helmet if they want to take part in the rally. In their eagerness to get dressed up, they put on various fancy head gears but very few put on helmets. What was the signal sent to younger generation? Fortunately these days all bike companies when they advertise their bikes,  make sure that the person driving the bike is wearing a helmet!

Coming back to my query, why we behave this way as a society? One thing is for sure that the implementation of our laws is lax and on top of that there are corrupt policemen. Strong implementation shows the results all over the world! Dr Chauhan, a staunch Khalistan movement backer, used to live in London in 80’s. When Indian Government requested the British Govt to stop Dr. Chauhan from making inflammatory statements, he was just called to office and was told that if he does not behave, he will be simply deported. From that day Dr. Chauhan’s mouth was shut! Our brethren behave differently when they land at Singapore! Why? The reason is strong implementation of laws. In general world over maybe 10% want to break the rule but in our case this % goes to 40/50%. With our large population handling law breakers is also not easy because of sheer volume.

Uber self-drive vehicle

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Uber’s Sweeny, in charge of driver less cars project was asked, where will Uber introduce such vehicles? He said, “US and Europe are typical example of organized traffic so we will first try there”. When asked about some larger countries in Asia, he just smiled!

Any solutions? Suggestion, anyone? I feel that unless there is a mass drive started, to involve anybody and everybody, it will be very difficult to change! Politically, we see that the whole nation is getting driven towards development, away from cast, creed politics. Do we need a national leader to take us towards modern developed organized society, so that Uber’s of this world would not give a smile, when asked if they would come to India for trials of driverless cars?

 

 

Women’s day

My wife Jaya was invited to Mumbai as chief guest to celebrate Women’s day. Conference was held under the aegis of an Organization “Amhi Udyogini”, who promote women entrepreneurs.  After her talk many ladies met Jaya and wanted to take selfies and photos with her. In fact one lady requested Jaya to write a message for her, in her diary! A couple of day’s later one lady called Jaya to thank her for her encouraging words at the conference. She said that she and her husband make furniture for laboratories; she then gave phone to her husband. The husband was all praise for his wife’s efforts. He said that she is the front end of their business and all their growth is due to the wife’s drive. Jaya asked him, “Why did she give you the phone and did not talk more with me?” He explained that she is bit diffident and feels a bit shy to talk about their business herself.

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I started thinking why this is so? When the lady is the driving force of their business why is she diffident? It probably goes back to history of humanity where patriarchal society has been the norm. Historically when mankind did not understand many things and was yet to start thinking logically, social norms were created. Man had a bigger build so he was supposed protect and fight and support that family. Woman’s role was to cook and procreate! Under the guise of protection Man would not allow women to interact with others. One religion went to the extreme by not allowing women show their body parts to anyone even when outside home, that too today! So called liberal religions were not much better and they would control their women in different ways, including chastity belts!

Friends, you will be surprised to know that women were legally allowed to vote in America in the year 1920. Before that they were considered sub human! In UK it was allowed around 1928 and in Germany after Hitler’s fall! Luckily in Pune, where I live, there were social reformers like Jyotiba Phule, Maharshi Karve and many others. Social reforms in India started in 19th century, and Pune is way ahead of rest of India in women’s rights and safety. Pune has been a liberal for decades and many ladies have been driving vehicles and doing professional work since several decades. Today I am told that in some engineering courses girls population is 30% plus. In medical and dental education it is 60%  plus!

How should we celebrate the women’s day? Men should respect the women, they should accept a fact that women can be smarter than men just as some men are! A lady is always doing a lot of parallel processing in her day to day work. She looks after the needs of the home, the kids, their studies, social contacts. A professional woman handles all these things with a great aplomb considering her monthly pms issues!

But more realistically this can be started right from the childhood! Parents & all the people at home should make sure that boys and girls are treated exactly same. Let them do things that they do naturally. Let boys play with their dinky cars if they want and girls with their dolls. But don’t force them away if girls like to play with cars! Share the all information with them about technology, banks, trains, planes and everything whether the child is a boy or a girl! Teach both boys and girls about cooking and other home things. But best one is what my daughter was telling the other day to my grand-daughter. My daughter Priya said, “Rhea see the Superman in the comic book! He has lot of strength and he can almost do anything. Similarly we girls are Superwomen and we can also do almost everything!” Happy Women’s day!

My voting rights were on hold, almost…..

I and Jaya have been voting for last 45 years. This morning we got our morning stuff out of the way quickly and reached the voting station just at the starting time, 7.30 am! Of course we did not go in the finery to celebrate the dance of democracy, but enthusiasm had not diminished in 45 years. The election was for Pune Municipal Corporation and was a local one.

There were many web sites where one could search details like name, polling booths and so on, but both our names were missing from all lists. We tried different spellings but nothing worked. This was a couple of days back. We assumed that our names were “struck off”! Then suddenly I received an SMS which included details about Jaya and my brother Shrikant, who lives in the US! This increased our hopes and I thought maybe my name is also there somewhere.

Surprisingly this time, arrangement for locating ones name and polling booth were quite rudimentary. Normally, we would get detailed slips on the day before voting from different political parties. We just needed to show the slips to locate the booth. But this year there were no slips! I thought India has gone up the value chain, no paper slips only SMS’s and online search. I somehow had an inkling that my name may be missing after all. We managed to locate our booth and went inside. There was nobody with laptops, searching etc. We presumed that our names would be in the same booth. And Lo! Jaya’s name was there and mine was not found. We came out after Jaya voted and went to a Govt official who had a list of names separated alphabetically. We could not find my name. The beauty is that names of ALL our neighbours from the Condo were seen only my name was not found.

While driving back home, I felt sad and it was getting converted into a “Pall of Gloom”! How can this happen? All these years I have voted, there is no change in our official address, there was no change in anything. How can my name suddenly vanish? Human nature is such that cancer, heart attack, accidents and “name vanishing from voter’s list” happen to someone else to be read in the newspaper! I just could not believe that it happened to me! I went home and later went to my office. Luckily my polling center is very close to my office. When we discussed my missing name in the office, everybody sympathized but sympathies don’t bring the name back in the voter’s list. Then my man Friday Pankaj took all the details from me and said, “Don’t worry! I will recheck.” In half an hour he came back with my details. My name was in another booth. There were six booths with approximately 800 people to vote at each booth. But Pankaj met one of the candidates and he made sure that my name was properly checked, manually and successfully! Was I happy!

Now thoughts come to my mind, why do these things happen? Why simple search on websites is not efficient? How can names actually get deleted? Or do they really get deleted? My perseverance helped me locating the name. But all people may not be that keen. If the name is not found, people just let go, in fact I also let go but Pankaj helped me vote, which is my basic democratic right! From work point of view creating and updating the lists is not rocket science but we read stories of a lot of errors. Why it cannot be stopped? That my name was not found on any search sites indicates that their data is not properly updated or their search criteria are wrong! Along with improving searching, volunteers should also be sitting with Laptops on the Election Day to make life easy for people! But for that to happen, data must be proper. Another thing that could be done is the vendors who process the data for Govt agencies should be penalized if names go missing. Probably they are given medals today! Financial punishment is a great way of increasing efficiency and correctness! May be they should also be offered bonuses, for zero errors!

One thing I have learnt today, if your name is not there don’t give up! Make an effort, maybe the name is misplaced and not deleted. Voting is our basic right, we don’t know how lucky we are that we live in a democracy! Check about life in non-democratic countries! We only look at chaos in India but we must also start looking at the vibrancy of democracy seen everywhere. We may not like the candidates in our area, we may not like the politicians but we must not forget the power of democracy! Democracy allows Modi to become Prime Minister and it also allow Trump to become President! Long live democracy!

 

 

 

Helmet Oh No!!!

There have been many jokes going around about Pune city and its people. When Pune was selected in “Smart City” list, there was a joke going around! Pune is degraded, Puneites are born over smart, now they are being downgraded to Smart! Lokmanya Tilak had said “स्वराज्य हा माझा जन्म सिध्ह हक्क आहे आणि तो मी मिळविणार!” “Swarajya is my Birthright and I shall achieve it.” He is the one who started this non-cooperation movement, against the Government, in not so silent a way like, Gandhiji. This movement started an un foreseen reaction. Since that time, all the Puneites were getting a blood transfusion of these freedom fighters’ blood! It’s still boiling in their bodies and their minds are still following the resistance to Government agencies route! I don’t blame them, it is their DNA.

Many idiot Indians are following a rule of using Helmet while driving two wheelers but not in Pune. There have been laws, rulings by high courts, supreme courts but the law makers hardly understand the human body. Here is an advantage of not using a helmet.

                                    ThisCantBePune

                                            This can’t be Pune!

When you do not use Helmet there is a very quick opportunity for you to meet your Maker, the God! You wear a helmet and fall from a two wheeler, this happens easily. This stupid helmet can come in the way of you and Him! It is well proven that by not wearing a helmet statistical probability of meeting Him vastly increases. Show me the law which says that I cannot meet Him early! Show me the Supreme Court ruling! I am on my own trip, family be damned!

Latest one is when you wear Helmet, you get bald! Wow, this scientific discovery by Puneites deserves Nobel Prize. At last the first Nobel Laureate is found in Pune city, many have been born before but they were never discovered. When you wear a helmet, in summer and sometimes otherwise also, you sweat. Sweat causes germ growth and pulls the hair away from your scalp. Of course in winter, when it is cold, you may wear cap covering your scalp, which also has the same effect as that of a helmet, on your hair. But cap is no helmet! Puneites have allergy to helmets. Young men are worried that if they go bald who will marry them? You cannot argue with this logic. There is one small hitch. You need to be on the terra firma to get married.

When you wear a helmet there are many disadvantages. Your view gets blocked. Looking at a beauty waiting next to you at the signal becomes well-nigh impossible. You cannot see the Policeman who may be around to catch you when you jump signals. Your hearing is impeded and you cannot hear the sounds on the road, including those of other vehicles. Of course there are some advantages also. Buds in your ear remain protected from the nature. You can listen to music while riding the two wheeler. This helps you in overcoming the boredom of driving through heavy traffic. Do these buds hamper your hearing? Please say it again, I could not hear what you said!!

Our modern day freedom fighters (of freedom fighter’s blood transfusion fame) are so sure about themselves that they make their own rules. Red signals are for the meek, green signals are your right. Going in the wrong

                              Funeral

                                        POLITICAL SUPPORT

direction on a one Way Street is the correct way, better utilization of resources. Parking in no parking zone, again same logic better utilization of resources.

When such a dangerous atrocity is forced by the Government can the politicians be behind! All political parties have jumped the band wagon. Some have claimed that Puneites are known for wearing Pagadis, old style head gear. How can Government force Puneites to change such traditional wear. That this tradition had a break for last 70/80 years is immaterial. They have taken out marches, protest meetings but they don’t grieve for those who die because helmet was not worn. I am not really sure of the statistics but I think that out of 100 two wheeler accidental deaths, at least 95% could have been avoided by helmets! January 2015 news said that at least 400 die in two wheeler road accidents, every year, in Pune & Pimpri Chinchwad. All the politicians fighting against helmet use should be called to give speech during funerals of such deaths and suggest that helmets should not be made compulsory. See the reactions of the relatives of the dead!

         Motorcycle AccidentPagdi

  Accidents always happen to someone else!   Puneri Pagdi

On a serious note, this can be handled in a pretty simple way. Don’t allow Petrol Pumps to sell petrol to those NOT wearing helmets. Large organizations including Government offices can force their staff to wear helmets. In Pune cantonment area army has forced people to wear helmets if they want to travel on armed forces roads. Run a big campaign and sustain for years together. Seat belt campaign has succeeded pretty well. Overcoming non adherence to helmet usage is also doable. Like charity start this campaign at home and in your society. 400 nos of death per year is just not acceptable. Don’t wait for such an event to happen in your own home! For records I used to travel for work on two wheeler in late 70’s and early 80’s; I always wore a helmet! So please please….