Have humans improved?

I am not talking about technology or other advances. In the facilities and technology, we have improved. In poverty eradication, health, hygiene and medical sciences, we have improved.

Many advances reach low-income countries and people because of the different actions taken by humans. But I am talking of social aspects. Especially in the caste, racial and religious issues, though tolerances have improved, to some extent, it is difficult to predict when things will erupt.

Take the classic case of a football match between Bulgaria and England, a couple of days back. England team had a couple of players of African origin. The game was in Bulgaria, and suddenly the racial comments were being shouted by spectators. Things went out of control a couple of times in the first half, and the match was almost abandoned twice during that session. The police took control of the situation and threw out a  group of spectators. To the credit of Government of Bulgaria, their President acted swiftly, and within an hour of the match finishing, he suggested to the President of their football association to resign, and he did. World football Association will take further action on Bulgaria is the good part. But my worry is why such things suddenly erupt? Does it mean that such things are dormant and waiting for some spark to inflame the situation?

“Us and Them,” thought process world over has reduced, but bad situations erupt suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the world. It can happen in the most advanced countries to the most backward countries. In this respect, the world has not changed.

Today I read one incident on Facebook. It is written by someone known me and not the usual “forward”! A family runs a business, and their washroom is outside their premises, in a condo. Another family staying in that condo were to start painting their condo. About half a dozen workers were expected to do the work. The gentleman approached the owner of the business and requested him for the key to their washroom for ten days. When he was asked why he wanted their washroom keys, he said, “Those people will be doing the painting for about ten days. I don’t want them to use our washroom. Since yours is a common washroom used by your employees; I need the key.” The business owner asked, “Why not let them use your washroom?” The condo owner replied, “How can I let “them” use our bathroom?” By his logic, their own bathroom was too pure to be used by “them”! Hence the request was made.

The business owner politely refused the request, and the condo owner is now furious! The incident is a classic case of caste incidents that occur in India. The event is from a very “forward” city of Pune which has led India in the social reforms during the last century. Social reformers like Karve and Phule were from Pune, and they have been pioneers in the social changes. I am worried that if the incident mentioned above can happen in Pune, what will be the situation in smaller towns, villages? What would be the situation in socially backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

The world over attempts is always made to correct historical errors. But sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and things get overcorrected. The actions of the South African government post-apartheid regimen shows the result of overcorrection. The apartheid government collapsed in early 90 s of the last century. Rules have been made to reserve the seats for people of African origin — nothing wrong in that, we do the same in India. In India, in some instances, reservations % has become as high as 76%. Whether this is right or wrong only time will tell. But there are no reservations in sports or the armed forces. But in South Africa there is a reserved quota for people of African origin in their Cricket team- I am unaware of other sports. Due to this, many good cricketers who do not fit into the quota would never get a chance to represent their country. What do they do?

They take help of Kolpak ruling. What is Kolpak ruling? The Kolpak ruling is a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements, have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. Thus any restrictions placed on their right to work (such as quotas setting maximum numbers of such foreign players in sports teams) are deemed illegal under EU law. The legal actions in Germany set a precedent for professional sports in Europe, which have had a wide-ranging effect, especially regarding English county cricket and European professional rugby.

The South African white cricketers when they do not get the opportunity to play for the nation, formally retire and move to England and make contracts with counties. The counties are waiting for such players because they are excellent cricketers. I am aware that sports are a tiny part of our lives; so decisions can be quickly taken as a minimal number of people are involved.

In the US an attempt was made by a Supreme Court ruling, referred to as busing! The ruling made it mandatory for students from an area to go to the same school, irrespective of race. The attempt by the Supreme Court helped to some extent, initially. But then white people started moving from cities to predominantly white suburbs. Those who could afford put the children in private schools. These actions of white negated the effect of busing!

The subject is vast and cannot be discussed in details in a blog. But racial prejudice is followed world over, including in India, sometimes blatantly and most of the times discreetly. I know enough Indian people who live in different countries, and they have all said such practice is followed world over, not in any particular nation. The reason for such action may differ, but the act continues, and I don’t think that it will ever stop.

Religious discriminations have political reasons, and these are going to be tough to handle. Let us hope that people all over the world change their attitudes and live in harmony. But it is a serious subject that needs to be dealt; social media does not help in such situations! But let us hope that better offices will prevail and people will live in harmony.

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Montreal musings, day to day life IV!

I had expected that day to day musings III would be my last of the musings in the series. But so many new things came up, and many of them were unexpected to me. Hence I am going ahead with this blog.  

I met one family yesterday evening in the garden where Rhea practices with her cycle and the couples son also practices. So Nikhil and Priya know the parents. We were introduced yesterday with them, and we chatted for some time. He asked me a question. He said, “Which is that small country between India and Iran, not Pakistan.” I said, “ I don’t know such a country.” Then he suddenly said, “Oh! It’s Kashmir!” I explained to him the whole situation briefly then he realised the issue. Incidentally, he is a Jewish person, and we know their views about certain people. He and his wife are both educated, but their knowledge about our part of the world is imperfect. They know about India’s progress in general as they meet a lot of smart Indians these days in Canada!  

I came to know one more information. Thanksgiving day is celebrated in the US and Canada on different days. In Canada, it will be celebrated this year on 14th October, and in the US it will be celebrated on 28th November. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United StatesIt began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.  The concept is the same as we have in India, where we celebrate Onam, Lohri, Makar Sankranti, and so on. While checking on the net why these are celebrated on different days, there was a cryptic description on one Canadian site, “We don’t have to follow the US in everything.” 

Similarly, now shops are full of items for Halloween festival. 

Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known aAllhalloween. All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.  

It begins the three-day observance of  Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  

Halloween is celebrated by attending Halloween costume parties, trick or treating by children. The children go to every home in the neighbourhood and ask the question trick or treat? They are given chocolates, cookies and such treats. 

Carving pumpkins into the jack-o’-lanterns, lighting the bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films are some of the other activities. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.  

We have similar time in Hindus what we call Pitru Paksha when we remember the dead. But in our country, it is not a celebration but is considered inauspicious. No new investments are made during those two weeks. 

We get surprising experiences once in a while. Today Jaya and I went to a famous French Bakery in the central area of Montreal. While making payments, I was told that they do not accept credit cards; they take only debit cards and cash! Luckily we had some Canadian Dollars in my wallet at that moment. It was reasonably large establishment. While on the subject of payment retired people here too, like in the US, prefer to pay by cash and not by cards. Weather conditions change a lot during a week, but Jaya and I always find it cold. The main reason being, on sunny day, temperature could be around 10 Deg C, but in the shade, we feel cold because most of the times it is windy.  

Last week Jaya and I went out for lunch in an Iranian joint. We always try different foods. While trying to explain the dishes, the owner asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “We are from India.” He straight away shifted to Hindi. He said that he had lived around Delhi for ten years. After that, he said, “Don’t worry, I will serve you excellent food which you will like.” Food was good. Then he also served us sweet Iranian Kolache!. It looked like biscuit but was stuffed with Dates and some other dry fruits. Some Iranian sweets look like Maharashtrian Diwali sweet Anarase. 

Another surprise was the restaurant was an Iranian addaBy the time we finished our food, about 15 Iranians had formed a group and were chatting and eating and having tea! In the background, TV was running an Iranian channelMy friend Veerendra told me that Canada has a large number of people from different nations, spread all over Canada, living peacefully.  

One pleasant surprise is the quality of vegetables. Priya was saying that these are generally produced in QuebecWater content in all this produce is on the higher side than what we get back in Pune. But Cauli Flower, Cabbage, Capsicum and all such vegetables are very tasty much better even than what we get in and around Delhi! Tastes of most of this stuff are much tastier than what I have generally tasted in the US! Of course, varieties are available in the US are amazing. The fad of organic food has not caught up in Canada; it seems. 

Because we are in Quebec, European culture is more prevalent. So are social norms! In our lane, neighbours are quite friendly with each other, and life, in general, appears to be less hectic! Since winters are harsh for longtime people, try to continue outside activities until the snowfall begins.   

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-10 at 19.37.18

One unique facility we saw which can be there only in rich countries. There is an area in the garden where people bring their dogs, and they can release the leash; dogs are allowed to do whatever they want except of course, poo poo! (It has to be cleaned by the owner!)

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-12 at 16.11.59

One strange thing. I thought Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Starbucks are known by the same never all over the world. Their menus may change to suit the local pallet. But the above photo is of KFC whose Quebec name is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky). Even in France, it is known by the name KFC! Strange are the ways of this world!  Similarly, I am told that road signs in France say, “STOP” but in Quebec, they are written as “Arrêt”!

I could not resist displaying these two beauties!

Au revoir et faites attention jusqu'à notre prochaine réunion! 
Probably they say bye and take care till we meet again in France ! 

 

 

Aarey, Quo Vadis?

Quo Vadis?  It is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?”, or more precisely, “Whither goest thou?” First, let me get the facts aside, then we will discuss it. Every metro system needs a yard to keep the trains, do repairs and maintenance, and to clean, etc. It is a technical requirement of the system. Currently, there is a significant dispute created by the so-called environmentalists! Aarey Colony has 450 thousand trees in the overall area, out of which the 2600 trees need to be cut for constructing the facility. I am not an expert in this field, but it is elementary maths that a minuscule number of trees are required to be chopped. Let the experts claim whatever they want to say, but it is no disaster.

If we consider the experts first, there will be some who are really knowledgeable persons; some have pseudo-knowledge. When there is chaos, politicians and celebrities are bound to jump in, especially as the Maharashtra state elections are only two weeks away. Politicians are supposed to be experts in every field anyway! Out of this group of people, some stay in new condos, and others live in older condos. My question to those living new condos is, was no tree cut to build the new condos? Did you complain to authorities and go to the courts to stop such projects? I am confident that in all new condos built surrounding the area of Aarey, more than 2600 trees must have been cut! Where were you, sir, at that time?

When a project of the importance like Metro, where costs are very high, every delay increases the cost of the project. All such projects are conceptualised by a large team of experts from every field, including environment experts. I am aware of the concept as it has been explained to me by my classmate Shashikant Limaye, who is a Mentor for the Pune Metro project. Then there are the green tribunal and the forest department. Permissions of all concerned departments are taken before environmental actions are taken! The beauty of the democracy (or the worst part?) is that in spite of following all the procedures, protestors can still go to court. These people went to various courts, and Mumbai high court finally gave a blanket clearance for cutting the trees.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/aarey-forest-tree-cut-felling-metro-bombay-high-court-pils-protest-1606393-2019-10-04

While providing this verdict, Bombay High Court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000/ on Shiv Sena Corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who had filed a plea against the tree authority’s approval to cut over 2,500 trees for the Metro project. Jadhav was a member of the tree authority.

Various questions came to my mind while reading about this episode! Do these “knowledgeable” people collectively understand the whole affair better? Some of them are experts in environmental aspects, but do they have the grasp of the overall project? The question is not only about the grasping, but there are many other aspects which you should know. I am giving the information provided by the BMC in the court about Carbon footprint.

Terracon aims to be India’s leading ecological solutions & natural resource management strategic consultancy firm. Its strengths include its technical knowledge and capabilities in the domain of ecology, botany, agriculture, and environmental science, as well as its deep understanding of today’s sustainability issues and the ability to design forward-thinking sustainability strategies.

http://www.terraconindia.com/

The Terracon report was submitted to the BMC recently. It says, “Each metro trip will result in a reduction of 324 kg of carbon dioxide.

One hundred ninety-seven fully loaded metro trips will suffice to offset the annual increase in carbon emission of 63,953 kg from the removal of 2185 trees, which are proposed to be cut.”

It further states, “The Metro III operations would cover the annual carbon sequestration by 2702 trees within four days of operations and the lifetime carbon sequestration of 2702 trees in 80 days of operations.”

The people protesting against the chopping of trees are aware of these studies as these reports were submitted in the court! That is why my title, “Quo Vadis?” What do you want to achieve by the adamance? As soon as the Mumbai court gave the clearance, within a couple of days, trees must have been cut by the Metro team. Still, the protestors have now gone back to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court case is about the felling of trees not stopping the shed work. Now that most of the trees are chopped, why do you want to continue the fight? The usual issues of, we know the best and the Ego come into play. All government authorities, agencies, Environmental Companies and the whole list of experts are ignorant according to these people.

We are not even discussing the convenience of Mumbai’s travelling people, who have currently no choice but to be in the current train compartments as if they are packed Sardines. There is a proven statistic over the years that ten people die every day in railway accidents due to ever so increasing crowding in Mumbai trains. Three thousand six hundred fifty people dying every year are less important than the twenty-six hundred trees.

Years back, there was a similar issue in Pune about road widening. The Industry doyen S L Kirloskar had asked a simple question, “Are trees for us or we are for trees?”

NalStop1

Pune traffic during rush hours.

A similar problem is lingering Pune about a road on a hill, which will cause a tremendous change in pollution, for 20 years. Environmentalists are creating difficulties one after another. The courts have been very stringent about tree felling activity in general. They ensure that if ten trees are felled, anywhere between 60 to a hundred new ones are planted. Courts also make sure that these agencies ensure and report that at least 90% of the newly planted trees are surviving.  Pune Corporation agreed to plant ten times the number of trees chopped; the “anti-development” people make use of the slow court system to ensure that the project will get delayed as much as is possible. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles that need not come to an area called Nal Stop are forced to come there, causing traffic snarls, jams and massive pollution in that particular area. Only God knows what their agenda is! There are many cities or towns on and in the hills. San Fransisco is the prime example of a major city on the hills.

Such groups exist all over the world. Some are really doing good work but most cause nuisance and create trouble for projects like Metros, which are Carbon “positive.” The human race has created many systems during the last hundred years that have made our lives much more comfortable. But later on, humans understood that during this development phase, some significant mistakes had been made, for example, global warming, plastics, and so on. Governments of the world (except it seems the US Govt) have accepted that there is a problem. Nations are correcting these errors, but the process has just started.

In many cases, solutions are also known. For example, in one-time-use plastic items, large investments have been made; so these investors are naturally going to resist. Even they want to go away from such products; but it will take some time to achieve the goals. Human race especially should know! A human takes nine months to grow in the mother’s womb before it is born. Once the corrective action process takes momentum things will move fast.

These anti-development groups are doing one vital work. They ensure that others do not forget that ecological mistakes need to be corrected as fast as possible. But they should choose the right causes. Mumbai Metro is a Carbon positive project and is going to help millions of people like you and me due to reduced pollution, and ease of travel. Most important is that people in Mumbai can travel in Metro like humans and not cattle!

A few friends were having a cup of tea in Mumbai near Aarey! All were smoking! One of them says while releasing the smoke, “This tree felling is bad, it will add to CO2 in Mumbai!”

Friends, please protest, reminding everybody of the ecological devastation of the earth is definitely essential; but be practical and become “a support group for Ecologically friendly and positive projects”! Get blessings of Mumbai train travellers and not their curses!

The grass is greener on the other side!

Yesterday we met one of Priya’s neighbour, while we were going out. Nikhil said, “Long time, no see!” The neighbour said that he had been very busy with work and has a busy time until it starts snowing. He has one of his businesses of cleaning sprinkling systems. I wondered what that business is. He said, “Before it starts snowing, we go to our clients. Empty the sprinkler system, then blow compressed air through the system. By doing this, all the water in the sprinkler is thrown out of the system. Cleaning is done to avoid ice formation inside the system when the system is not used in winter.” In summer, the user can start using the system again.

It put my mind working and I thought how much unaware we are of many things done in the world. Nikhil later told me that even the regular water system also needs to be checked sometimes if the flow is irregular around autumn time. The system is bled during this period to remove airlocks if any! This checking cannot be obviously done once the winter sets in.

There could be many such preventive maintenance requirements which we don’t know. Or we know, but we don’t do it. In our homes, washbasins sometimes tend to get choked after usage. There is one small device readily available in the market. How many of us keep it at home?

The next image shows a filter in the system. How many of us get it regularly cleaned? By doing self-help stuff, we can avoid emergencies.

We are unaware of so many basic things that we run into unnecessary arguments sometimes. In many cities in India, we face water shortage due to deficient rains the previous year. Water supply to homes is available for a specific period during the day. In a society where I have a condo, there was a big fight going on WhatsApp about irresponsible behaviour of people. It was said that some people just don’t care and don’t bother about checking if all taps are closed before they leave for office. When the water supply is restarted in the evening, the water is wasted as it runs; people come home late from office. I explained to them that when the water system goes fully dry, the washers and springs in flush tanks tend to get stuck or damaged. When the water is restarted, the water can continue to flow without being used unless we act on it. Then the management team understood the problem and kept water supply on round the clock, but during certain times it was kept at low pressure.

I have noticed in Montreal, the sincerity of workers. There is work going on on our road. Just now (7 am) the temperature is 2 deg C, but all of the team started work at 7 am sharp. I have not seen this happen in many of our factories also, the so-called organised sector.

Some factors affecting lives in different countries don’t even come to our mind. I know of a friend who removed the snow from his car and was about to leave. But he received a work-related call and was talking on the phone almost for an hour. He came out the second time (it was snowing all the time), removed the snow again and drove away for work. People need to keep their car running for 20 to 30 minutes in winter before moving out, especially if parked in the uncovered area.

We see and enjoy the lovely photographs from Christmas time from many places with white snow in the background. It looks beautiful in the photos, but the snow cleaning in your territory is your job. I saw some homes having staircases from outside to reach home. During the winter, the snow gathered on the stairs is your responsibility; every day you are required to clean the snow accumulated on the stairs. If someone slips because of lack of cleaning, you can be sued!

wb3

I used to live in Model Colony in Pune, during my younger days;  when it rained heavily, a lot of water used to flow down from the hills to our area and flood it. When the rain intensity would reduce, I would go out with my son Sachin, who was 5 or 6 years old then. We would simply clean the leaves that blocked the meshes on the drainage system, and flood would be gone in five minutes. I did it a couple of years back near my office building too with the same results. Honestly, it is no big deal. But the subject came to mind due to water logging issues in Pune recently. Nowadays the drain meshes are blocked by tree leaves as well as by plastic bags. Why can’t some volunteers do this in each area once the rain intensity reduces? I am not talking about the water deluge event that occurred due to cloud burst!

I understand that because of strict traffic rules, hefty fines and their implementation, traffic is generally well-disciplined in western countries. But I have not heard of such laws for pedestrians. But why are pedestrians equally disciplined in these countries? I rarely see them breaking the rules. My granddaughter Rhea (she will be six years old soon) asked me once why don’t we follow these rules in Pune? I had no answer!

Another issue we are not aware of about winter in these areas is clothing. We know that the layers help, thermals are essential. But I was not aware that the snow jackets are designed for different temperatures. In Montreal, temperatures can go down to -35 deg C! So, jackets also have their ranges. In most cases, those designed for – 15 to – 20 deg C are enough. But when the temperature falls further, you need to wear even better ones designed for the temperature of -40 deg C!

I have understood somethings about heating systems at home here. Some are gas-based, some use water heating, and others make use of Electricity for heating. I am, of course, not aware of more details of these systems. I am not likely to understand practical difficulties in these systems as I will not be here in winter.

Each zone, each region, even in one country like India, has very different weather. So, requirements, handling of the systems will be very different from area to area. Cold countries handle temperatures from 35/40 deg C to -35 deg C. Still they manage their systems well. I will tell you about the road repairs in Montreal. It can be handled only for six to seven months in any year before the snow! But this needs a lot of planning, preparation and readiness to handle work when the slot becomes available for repairs. (Potholes in Pune and Mumbai, Delhi?)

I will share one crucial knowledge I acquired. When any area is dug for repairs of utilities like electrical cables, water lines, gas pipes the agencies have the maps ready. They dig the area using normal excavator up to a safe depth. After that, Vacuum excavators are used. They loosen the soil in that area and suck it! So, the chances of damaging any of the pipes or cables become minimal. I do not see Vacuum Excavators being used in India. Maybe they are being used, but I have not seen them!

Friends life in any part of the world has its own issues. In India, we are lucky that for most of the year we have sunlight! Weather for the most times cannot be described as harsh. But what we lack is design, planning, execution and WILL!

What will change/not change in the next ten years?

During the last twentyfive years, things have changed so much in the world technologically and otherwise that people find it difficult to predict what will happen in the next five or ten years! Change has happened in India and world over. It has changed many business processes. It has made life both easy and challengingThe methods of travelling may vary, but people would still want to meet face to face!  

What else will not change? Customers will keep on asking for more discount or lesser price. This aspect of the business is never going to change. People will expect better and better service from companies; BOTS may reduce human resources, but the quality of service ultimately has to be managed by humans.  

What is definitely not going to change is people and their behaviourPeople are good and evil, smart and dumb! People are generous, and they are greedy! But the fundamental nature of people will never change. The institutions like marriage may change; livein relationships may increase, but people are not going to stop giving birth to kidsThe legal status of progeny may be different, but this is like the cycles in the fashion industry.  Ten thousand years back, people lived in communes! Institution of marriage did not exist. The same may happen in the world. The % of such couples may increase in the world!  

What will happen to institutions like governments and nations? In place of globalisation, there could be policy reversal and countries will try and safeguard their interests. But will the United Nations change? No, it will not! The concept of the United Nations was started with Noble thoughts, but when it comes to self interests, especially of large and powerful nations, things will changeA classic example of such things is the sudden reversal by the US about their commitments to environmental change movement.  

Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg is one change that is likely to happen. It is about young people coming forward to take charge of the future. The classic case of young people not taking part in the referendum is Brexit. Young people in Britain took this referendum casually, and many of them did not take part in it. The end result is there for us to see. Young people not taking part in matters that may affect their future is a common thing the world over. Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg are the exceptions to the rule. I will be most happy if I am proven wrong. Greta Thunberg, all of 16 years of age, gave an emotional speech in the United Nations about the environment. She also led the Environmental march in Montreal, Canada. The movement was attended by fifty thousand people. So, there is a hope that people to whom this is going to matter will get more involved. 

Another thing that is not going to change is natural disasters. Natural disasters have been part of our life all the time. The population of the world has increased tremendouslyA classic example of natural disasters causing huge damages and deaths is the Tsunami in the year 2004. After an earthquake measuring nineplus near Indonesia, resulted in Tsunami, which hit India’s east coast. This coast is not prone to be hit by Tsunamis, but that is nature. More than one hundred thousand people were killed, and property worth the US $ 15 billions were damaged.  

Another natural disaster hit Mumbai on 26th July 2005. On that day, within twentyfour hours, it rained 944 mmthe previous record was 575 mm in twenty-four hrs in 1974 in Mumbai. In 2005 rain deluge, almost 1100 people died in Mumbai floods. There is a tendency to blame the builders, corporation, and people in general who are not bothered about environmental damage. The quantity of rain on 26th July would have caused floods in any city in the world. No cities in the world are designed to handle such deluge. 

A rain-related disaster happened in Pune recently; in four hours it rained 135 mmThe same standard blame game is on. Though part of it is correct, there is an important reason.  

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The image above (shared by my friend Prakash)  shows the old waterways in Pune. These were designed 250 years back. The waterways always have a specifically designed capacity to handle water flow. But the deluge for four hours on 25th September was too much for these waterways. All these years at least I have never heard of so much damage due to rains in Pune. I will share one example. One of the waterways passes behind the compound wall of a housing society. The waterway started overflowing, and water pressure forced the compound wall to come down like a pack of cards. There were more than 400 cars in society, mostly in the basement parking. The basement was filled with water, and all the cars were sunk. All these new buildings and societies have come up in the last 30 to 40 years. Waterways were there even during those 30 to 40 years. But fortunately, there was no deluge during that period.  These unprecedented rains were destiny and increased population added to the woes of people. The area was sparsely populated before all the houses came up to accommodate the increased population, not necessarily breaking the rules.  

The cheats and corrupts will always be there, that will never change. Their method would change, and there is a chance that the amounts involved would be massive. Frauds would be done mostly using technology and computers. One person was in charge of computer systems in a large bank. He came up with a brilliant idea. In one of the systems, the amount was always rounded off to close the transaction. The gentleman came up with a neat idea. He opened an account discreetly, for which only he had access. From each transaction, the rounded off amount would be transferred to this account. There were thousands of such transactions. At the end of a couple of years, he emptied this particular account. He had become a millionaire!  

Humans, their nature and greed, nature and its fury are some of the things that are never going to change. Society rules might change, but basic societies will never change; that is because humans are never going to change.  One thing that looks like changing is that younger people are taking responsibilities and will push the authorities for a better future.

Feeling lonely?

Am I feeling lonely? Am I feeling sad? Am I a person looking for sympathy? Am I full of negativity? These and many such questions have been coming to my mind since last evening. Another doubt that also came in my mind is, do I deserve this? Such thoughts came into my mind and then suddenly during the day, today,  I read a couple of beautiful stories. Today we went out to Nikhil and Priya’s friend’s home for breakfast; ended up into an excellent affair which turned the food event from breakfast to brunch to lunch. Jaya and I had met them only the second time.  

Love1

We could see optimism in these four young people added to it was the joy of Rhea, my granddaughter’s banter and frolics. Suddenly the Doubtful Thomas from my mind went for a toss, and original Pramod re-entered,  after the famous Canadian Siesta! What made this change? Why the initial trauma which is not the normal Pramod?  

On our WhatsApp group on the previous day, an event had taken place. Except for a very few friend’s, nobody knows the real story. An old batchmate, who lives in California had joined back after a couple of years of gap. Even at that time, he had left the group in a huff due to disagreement. He has been undergoing chemotherapy for some time, and currently, he has fifteen manageable days in any month and fifteen bad days after chemotherapy. I will not delve into details of what happened (the group is 70 years plus batchmates of COEP 71, the famous engineering college in Pune) because those are unimportant.  

It was the acts of people, sometimes actual act and sometimes knowingly remaining silent that caused the episode. I realised that it is the act of silence or behaving with less empathy and love must have caused pain to the friends themselves, other than the affected friendI am not even discussing the main actor in this event. Some were magnanimous and openly declared their remorse, whereas others did not. When we behave abnormally, I am sure our blood pressure goes up. Possibly our blood sugar levels also shoot up for a temporary period. The event that occurred was so immaterial that it is not even worth discussion.  

What brought me back to normality? There were a couple of stories I read which told me that everything is all right with this world — the first story I am sharing verbatim. 

Story 1 

The first time I met Mayor Pete, I was working in the ER, very shortly after finishing my residency and moving back to South Bend. I was caring for a little Somali boy who had nearly hanged himself. We had no Arabic translator immediately available that could help me talk with his mother, and we were working on getting one of the phone translation services when a young man in a suit showed up and just started translating. I assumed the hospital had found and sent down an official translator because translators at the hospital where I did my residency training always wore suits. The boy was gravely ill, and I did not bother to ask who the new translator was, but he spent about an hour with the mother and I, just helping me talk with her about his treatment and his prognosis. Then he followed her and her son up to the ICU when the boy was admitted. During the whole event, he never mentioned who he was or said anything to take the focus away from caring for this little boy and his family. 

About an hour later, he came down from the ICU and shook my hand before he left. I asked him how long he had been a translator with the hospital, and he very casually replied, “I don’t work for the hospital, I’m Mayor Pete.” He shook my hand and left without another word. He had come and done what he needed to do and was on his way, either home or back to work. 

I learned later that he had simply heard over the police scanner that we needed an Arabic translator at the hospital for this tragic situation and just wanted to help. In addition to studying at Harvard, being a Rhodes scholar, working as a McKenzie consultant, he spoke fluent Arabic and worked for Navy intelligence in the Middle East. He is a pretty amazing guy, has done incredible work here in South Bend, and will do great things for the country I hope.” 

Love2

Story 2 

I only read about this event so, I am describing it in my wordsA lady in her early seventies was detected with Alzheimer. There have been sad stories about people with Alzheimer. She was lucky to have husband, a very caring person. The disease was following the typical path. Once their young maid did a few dance steps when they were listening to an old song. The husband noticed his wife’s shining eyesHe saw this and signalled to the maid to continue with the steps. In those ten minutes, it appeared as if the wife went into a trance; she was in her own different world. The loving husband realised that the wife’s musical traits had woken up. He experimented with her favourite old Hindi songs, and it worked. They changed the home atmosphere and made everything musical. Their children lived in different cities and used to come whenever they could make it, to meet their mother. The progress of the disease had slowed down. Then they found accidentally that the lady liked to use crayons. A family with a young child had come to meet them. The lady enjoyed his crayons and did some painting. 

Along with old Hindi songs, crayons and drawing books, some colourful posters of butterflies, birds and trees were put everywhere. Alzheimer almost forgot the lady’s address. But life is never rosy. After a few good years, it’s speed increasedand the lady started going down again. But with the alert act by the husband who was also eighty plus, the family had good five years, in spite of Alzheimer. Was it only alertness? Or was it love? Was it empathy? He had his heart in the right place and wanted his wife to be a little more cheerful for as many years as possible. 

Do you show love and empathy only if the person is related to you? To me, friends are the second family to everybody. Age does not play any role. I can be friends with a six-month-old baby or six-year-old boy! I love to interact with 30-year-olds and fifty-year-old. My friends from school and college times are, of course, 70 plus. Those who are in reasonably good health feel as if they are fifty. But I find that most have their heart in the right place.  

When the world can be so lovely, who is bothered about the nitty-gritty of life? I may sound like a preacher, talking of love and empathy all the time; but that is what we should have in this world full of abundant heartless behaviour. With the heart in the right place, humans automatically are graceful and soft in the way, they react to any situation.  

Are there any online courses available that teach you how to behave with empathy and love? Are there any procedures available that bring your heart in the right place? Harsh behaviour and reactions are the cause of your bad experiences at your different stages of life. Simply remember that we are all born the same way, and we are also going to die the same way. We are on a voyage or a cruise, so why not make the best use of the same? Make it enjoyable instead of having self-inflicted wounds. Just take a look below the skin of any person, we are all the same!  

Read this when you have time! 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/world-alzheimers-day 

Does anyone read your blog, Pramod?

I publish my blogs on WordPress and share them with friends on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and email. One friend from on a WhatsApp group wrote to me a poignant message, “Pramod? Anybody reading your blog? 😄😄” Honestly, I do not know how I should react to such comments. By the way, on our group itself, there was a big discussion on the blog referred by this friend, which was the result of many people reading my blog.

By remaining silent, I may encourage him to write more such remarks. If I had replied to my friend, I would not have gained anything. I don’t need to explain and justify to anyone why I write blogs. Writing has now become part of my daily routine. I feel very uncomfortable if I am not able to read or write on any day. So, it would be like explaining to my friend why I breathe!

Then a thought came to my mind; the WhatsApp group which I am talking about are my classmates who are mostly in the age group of 70 plus. Recently one of our classmates celebrated his 75th birthday. So, my friends are getting older. Old age brings specific difficulties as you age. A few friends have only biologically aged, but some have aged mentally also. Illnesses are something totally different. Diseases can catch you unawares at any age; nobody is ever prepared for serious illness. But I also want to share with you that some of my friends have remained quite fit; they still travel and work. Some others are mentally very alert and enjoy life fully in the golden phase of life.

I am sharing my thoughts about those friends who are unwell, not fit enough or those who have decided that they have become old. The idea came in my mind after reading the lovely message sent by my friend, which was discussed above. I feel bad for him. Is he unwell? Is he mentally disturbed for some reason? I am also going to share the experiences of other friends and how some of them handled tough situations.

Let me start with our friend. I had called him a few months back to find out how he was. He said that currently, he was not keeping good health and hence did not feel like attending group meetings. I assumed that he must be getting himself treated by doctors. But his messages on the group indicate that something is not right. He writes vague; he sometimes asks meaningless questions. Sometimes he asks queries about some messages after a week. Maybe he is not using WhatsApp regularly. But the quality of his messages indicates that he should take more care of his health. Initially, he used to send messages about some unproven non-conventional treatments on serious ailments like cancer! Even after suggesting to refrain from posting such messages, he continued. At the end of one group dinner, I had to publicly tell him the ill effects of sending details about unproven treatment for severe illnesses like cancer. Before he questioned me about my knowledge on the subject, I told him, “Last year, I was treated for cancer for three months. I am talking from my personal experience.”

I will share some good sides also from the group! All of us were together in Engineering College (COEP) in Pune. During our careers, many have done well. But it is interesting to know what some of us are doing during the golden phase of life. Vilas has become a well-known palmist and teaches palmistry. He is very busy doing what he enjoys. Vasant has gone into social work but never talks about it unless asked. Another friend is active in writing about Tatwadyan. A friend Suresh still works full time but takes Yoga courses in Sydney, Australia. Rajendra has kept himself busy in teaching Brahmavidya. I want to tell him jokingly that he is more active now than he used to be during his career.

I write blogs on varied subjects but never wrote anything about our group. Our friend Shashi is instrumental in getting and keeping people together. He comes up with novel ideas and starts some discussion on a subject. Such messages invoke a lot of comments and reviews which includes criticism too. But these things make the group lively. Another activity we have on the group is solving puzzles Sudhakar and Shriniwas are the maths wizards from the group. Hats off to them. They are very comfortable with anything to do with maths.

For obvious reasons I am not writing the names of some friends when I write about them. A couple of them are down with paralysis — one since about ten months and the other for almost two and a half years. One of them also needs the support of the pacemaker for his heart! Friends go and meet them because of the restrictions on the movement. A friend is going through chemotherapy every month. He has 15 bad days every month. But all of them are bravely facing what destiny has given them.

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I found this beautiful message on the internet and found that it is very appropriate. These friends who are going through significant illnesses, and are handling them bravely. One of our friends has almost become blind due to diabetes issues. How can we contribute to making their life a little more exciting? In the same vein as in the message above I will say, “Let our friends enjoy our WhatsApp banter. It is their only current way of communicating daily with many friends. We should show them empathy- I will never use the word “Sympathy”. These are our brave friends, so they need empathy. On the group, there are specific rules and regulation which all must follow, but if these friends break the norms once in a while, we can softly and personally inform them, or the best way will be to talk to them. Don’t forget that a friend has 15 bad days every month. Other friends are going through the tough grind every day. At least to me, their words will be like a beautiful song to me; let us not have cages made of stringent rules. We need not be very rigid!  Provide them with a tree to sit on! If in our golden period, we are not able to empathise and give love to others, when are we going to do it? We need to throw away that small word EGO from our system, which will make us softer and better human beings.

To my dear friend who asked me if anyone reads my blogs! Friend, why not try and read some of my blogs. Especially read the current one. It is about love and empathy. Throw the ego and sarcasm away. Have you forgotten that we have two gems or diamonds, in our group, whichever way you want to describe? Sonya and Pravin! How much pleasure do they give us by sharing their paintings, poems, small gems of information from literature or old poems? Pravin has lately become शीघ्र कवी. He quickly writes poems on the current topics of discussions. He recited some of them during Poona Club lunch; you missed them.

Finally, reply to your query. First, there is one person who reads my blog, me! 🙂🙂 Friend one of my blogs last year was read by 675 people, and a recent one was read by 350 people. In a year, thousands read my blogs from the world over. How do I know this? Whenever anyone reads my blog, I get a message that is how I know the details. If you have the fear that I am making money on writing blogs, no, I am not! Are you even aware that Vijay Saheta has already written his first blog a couple of weeks back? Ravi Mahuli writes hundreds of blogs about Ved and Tatwadyan. So please try and keep your mind open. Try and read a few. Maybe you would start writing blogs about your favourite subject, Farmers and their issues!  Do some research, and you will know that the blog can be written in any language.

I love when people ask me questions about what I write. It helps me improve further and makes me think differently, thereby increasing my horizon. Your three or four words gave me a subject for the blog! A big thank you!