Was somebody raped? 

The title is similar to the title of a movie, “Nobody killed Jessica!” The movie was the real-life story of Jessica Lal who was murdered in a public place. But initially, the culprits were released because “there was no evidence”! All the witnesses had become hostile because the culprit was rich and powerful!

I was reading twitter exchange on the subject of Unnao and Hyderabad rape cases. People have become cynical about rape events and the ecosystem surrounding us, which includes various authorities and society in general. One person said in his tweet, “It is straightforward. If the victim is from financially lower strata and perpetrators are rich, kill the victim. If the alleged perpetrators are poor, kill them.” The whole of India was shocked when Nirbhaya was raped and murdered in Delhi in 2012. It was not about murder or rape. It was the way the event took place. The rapists were cold-blooded in the act and selected the victim randomly. Another shocking part of the story was that one of the culprits was a sixteen-year-old boy. Others got the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, the boy was a juvenile so, he was remanded to a juvenile institution for three years and is leading a normal life.

The boy had the gumption to insert a steel rod in the lady’s organs; he should have got the death penalty whatever his age was. But then that is the law of the country. Another institution that we talk about is fast-track courts. Today seven years after the event, the culprits are still to be hanged.

In the Hyderabad case, a different scenario came up. The police took the alleged culprits to the site where they burnt the body of the victim. Police claim that the culprits attacked them, and took their guns. They started firing. Police started firing in retaliation, and all four died in the exchange of fire. A couple of police officers had minor injuries which seems to be a very convenient story. But the reaction to this story was a celebration all over India. Even in the parliament in India, the MP’s congratulated the action taken by the police.

In the rape case in Unnao, the lady who was on her way to the court for the court hearing, and was caught and burnt to death.

We read about rapes all over the world, but the cold-bloodedness by the culprits appears to be unique in India. Any rape is a horrible event. The statistics show that relatives of the victims or people known to the victims are involved in more than 75% rapes. It is a horrible mental sickness that has spread all over the world. In most cases of rapes or indecent behaviour, the victims do not report the event, as they feel ashamed, though it is not their fault. The victim is treated as if it is her fault.

I feel both numb and angry at the same time. There are so many angles to such events that you feel frustrated. Let me assure you many of the arguments are right also. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bobde made a very valid point that justice can not be instant. When the event takes place, there is a need to lodge FIR. There is a facility to lodge Zero FIR as per law in case of events like rape. Zero FIR means any police station can register the FIR, and then that police station should transfer this Zero FIR to the appropriate jurisdiction. Such an action can save time in critical cases like the one in Hyderabad where time was of the essence to at least to stop the murder. But I am doubtful how many police people know this procedure. People are made to waste a lot of time locating the correct jurisdiction.

The second thing is social. In large cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune there is large migrated population. Such migration gives anonymity, and this anonymity allows people to act in whatever manner they think is right. No person will behave funnily in his or her village or town or city. It is because they fear that someone from the family or relatives or friends of the family might see you doing the wrong things. But due to anonymity, they don’t have that fear. They feel that they can get away with anything. The situation is common for both men and women.

In a housing society, where I was the Chairman, three young women used to get drunk every Saturday night. When they would come back in an auto, their condition was always very embarrassing to even security people. Security people complained to me. Once I gave instructions to stop them at the gate, took their photos. It was at midnight. I ten minutes, the father of one of the girls called me from Delhi and started throwing weight and told me that I would face the consequences. Once he finished talking, I asked if I could send him the photographs of the girls in their current condition. He realised what I was saying. Next day he called to apologise to me and requested me to give them a month to move elsewhere.

I am all okay with personal freedom etc., but the freedom comes with a responsibility. If one does not behave decently, anything can happen. We should not forget that in the patriarchal society, men treat the women in their homes and the community, poorly. The women do not get the respect they deserve. Parents should teach the girls to behave decently, but it is more important to teach the boys to behave. The boys are given undue freedom during their growth phase while girls are under unnecessary restrictions during the growth. These boys who have grown up in such households cannot handle when they see women doing work independently and confidently. The boys probably grow up, thinking they can get away misbehaving since they have gotten away to some extent in childhood. Such growing up ends in Nirbhaya 1 and Nirbhaya 2 and I don’t know how many more Nirbhaya cases.

The Unnao case is a classic case. First, there was an error by the court. The court released the perpetrators on bail with a warning that they should not harass the victim. The victim was from a low-income family. These people doused the girl with petrol while she was going to court and burnt her. They were so confident that they did not even run away; they were found at home when police came to search. They had expected police not to act as they were from affluent families. How do we handle such errors? Should the judge be punished for a severe lapse? But will this punishment bring the girl back to life?

I have already said above that I feel both numb and angry at the same time. How will this vicious cycle stop? How does society learn to respect their daughters? What needs to be done by all to improve the situation? There are comments made that girls wear revealing clothing, but how do you explain when someone rapes four or six-year-old girl? The child does not even understand the meaning of sex.

There is a cynical joke. Two families go on a picnic, and their children are a 4-year-old boy and a girl. They play in the lake water while changing the clothes they see each other in nude. The girl next day tells her friend in school, “Yesterday, I came to know the difference between Protestants and Catholics!”

The more I think, the more I am getting confused and worried. How is this going to stop? Why are people becoming cruel? In one case I read today, a girl was held hostage by a boy and his friends. They regularly raped her. They demanded ransom from her parents. The girl’s family did not have the means to organise the money. The boy decided to kill and burn the girl. The mother of that boy helped to organise the killing and burning.

I am now more numb, more angry and cynical! Friends, how to change this trend? How to make this mass change in society? Police, Courts come later. How to ensure the rapes will not happen? We refer to rapists sometimes as beasts. Sorry! I disagree there. Beasts never rape; they mate only during their mating season. They do not wait at the toll plaza looking for a victim. They don’t travel on the buses at night, and create a Nirbhaya! Fast-tracking of the cases is after the event has happened. Nobody seems to have the solution to prevent the events!

Let us all pray and hope that things will start changing slowly in future!

The change of mindset! 

It is commonly said that change is the only constant in life. I generally believe in this statement, but some things do not change, they remain constant. Why do some things not follow the universal law of change? These constants are mainly about human behaviour. In these constants, methods might change, but basic things don’t change. Some changes happen stealthily, and others happen fast. 

You must be aware that technological changes appear to be happening fast, but they have their development cycles from 10, 20 to 50 years. People are working in the background; many trial and errors take placeThese inventions bring out changes. But this is about the technological and other changes. Social and human behaviour change takes much longer time to change, and some of the things don’t change at all. Attacks on women and rapes continue to happen 

You must be wondering why I am writing about rape and cashless transactions, together, in this blog. Cash transactions in India are our habits and, we don’t want to go away from them. There are reasons. In business, cash transactions are done to cheat on tax. But the small transactions which I am going to discuss can easily be changed by providing technology and making it mandatory.  These changes will change the mindset of people once the benefits are understood.

RFID tags are mandatory to pay toll on highways, from 15th December. There will be only one lane available for those vehicles without tag, and they will be charged double the amount. Tags will change large number of cash transactions happening daily to cashless. But how to change the mindset in cases of rape? It has to start from home, and the boys should be taught by their mothers and sisters to respect the ladies in society. In a patriarchal society, males think that they can get away with anything. But during growing age, the boys must be taught that it is only human species that rape the ladies. All other species do consensual mating and that too during mating seasons. The law of the jungle does not apply to the sex life of other species. 

Take the case of Nirbhaya 2 that has happened in HyderabadThe news has shaken India because people of India had hoped that events like Nirbhaya would not happen again. I am not saying that there will be no rapes, but the actions after that, killing the victim, burning her body are horrible. I was hoping that this kind of brutality will not happen again after the Delhi event in 2012. But it has happened! I am not sure if such incidents happened while we were an undeveloped society say, 2000 years back. Now there are laws in place. It is known that culprits of such events get the death penalty. Still, how do such ruthless attacks take place 

Mind you; I am not talking about the rape but the methodology. Rape is one social behaviour that is going to be a constant in human lives. Majority of rape cases happen to involve known people or relatives. That is even more dangerous. Some people argue that women wear provocative dresses. In these two Nirbhaya cases, the ladies were wearing day to day clothes. The common factor in both these cases is that the rapists were all from the transport industry, uneducated, and young (One in Delhi case was a 16-year-old boy)About provocative dresses, the definition of each individual is different. Some (in)humans rape even babies! It is more to do about mindset. Writing on this subject makes me very uncomfortable and sad.  

We will now look at one change that is happening in IndiaWe Indians love to do commercial transactions in cash. Any attempt to change the mindset is resisted, and people try to find loopholes. What I am writing about is not a significant technological change, but it is the application of the existing technology which will reduce cash transactions in a big way. I am talking of RFID tags to be made mandatory for vehicles to pay the toll on Indian highways. The technology has been in existence for a long time, and I have seen this used in the US 15 years back. Every day people travel on highways in large numbers. If we check the collective wastage of fuel, time of people while waiting in line to pay the toll, it is colossal wastage. When you have a tag pasted on your vehicle, the vehicle needs to reduce speed to approximately 15 Km at the toll plaza. The system will do the work. Hundreds of Crores of rupees of cash transactions will get converted to “cashless’’. If we calculate fuel and time saving on all India basis, the numbers will justify the mandate.

What we need to do is to provide changes which will save time and energy and cover large number of people. When Metro starts to run in a big way in Mumbai or Pune in next ¾ years, there should be system of providing common pass to Metro, “current local trains” and BEST (in Mumbai) and PMPML (in Pune). It is a common system world over. In a “small” Metropolis like Montreal with a population of 1.5 million, the scanning cards for monthly, weekly duration are provided. Metro in Montreal carries 1.3 million passengers a day, very smoothly. These scanning systems work efficiently. When I went to see World Cup final at Melbourne in 2015, the scanning system for tickets easily handled entry of 93000 plus spectators in a short time. There were hardly any queues. The change I have suggested will eliminate vast number of cash transactions in these two cities; it will make life easy for people. PMPML is currently facing an issue of disposing off coins (2.5 million) which are lying with them because banks have refused to accept such a huge number of coins. It is the change in mindset that it is crucial. Mindset change should be in people as well as officials who run these organisations. 

We need to change the mindset in every field. The societies which are open to accept the change improve, or else they remain uncivilised. In India, you look at any area; we don’t want to use the “queue” system. We quickly break traffic rules; motorbikes are driven on footpaths when there is a traffic jam. We drive vehicles on the wrong side, nonchalantly. It is our mindset that needs to change. Leave your home 10/15 earlier instead of breaking the rules.  

What do we need to do, to change the mindsets? To me, social studies should be a mandatory subject in every field like engineering, medicine, economics. It should be compulsory for all courses. Parents should be the role models to the children. If mothers break traffic rules while going with their children, it is guaranteed that the child will break the rules when he/she grows up! Mom is always right! Large organisations are helping in some way by making it mandatory for their employees to wear a helmet while coming to the office! But some employees put on their helmet only two minutes before they reach the office. It is my head, who the hell is my office to make it mandatory? Such an attitude is a result of not wanting to change the mindset.  

My definition of developed country is a country where a small minority breaks public rules! You get different feeling on the roads in such countries. Why we Indians do not want to change? We take pride in not following the basic rules in a society. Is this because of British rules we had? In the last 50 years of British rule, we started doing everything against the government to make their life miserable. We seem to have forgotten that now we have our own government for the last 70 years. So we should stop the non-cooperation movement, change our mindset! To me, this is the biggest challenge in India!  

Ever the optimist, I discussed with an Uber driver, about the fast tag. He said, “Modi is going to make our life miserable. Fast tag, camera-based traffic violation fines! But sir, we deserve this! We will probably take five years to see the dramatic effects of these things. We need this. In the last six months, I can see the effects on traffic violations!”

Perceptions and Grudges!

Perception is how something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. A grudge is a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury. Though these two words have different meanings, these are interlinked in our day to day lives. An event takes place; we meet someone. We meet people for work, or we also meet casually. We meet known people or unknown people.  

According to my understanding, the perception comes into play firstthen the grudge may be formed if any. The same event is looked at by people in different ways. If five people are discussing why sales are going down, there will be ten different views. But some people have particular perception of the situation and do not accept opinions from others.  

Perception is best described by the story of an Elephant and five blind men. Each man thinks and depictthe elephant differently because he cannot see the whole elephant. They describe the elephant depending on the part they have touched. But in this case, the men are blind and cannot see the entire elephant. But in life, we also look at many situations like blind men. We are not blind, but our perceptions create a tunnel vision in our mind. We look at situations through that tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can also be compared with a narrow mind. The term narrowminded has been created for such thought process 

Why doe this happen? Why people become narrowminded? Why are people not willing to be open? It depends on how you are brought up from childhood, what experiences you get during childhood, younger days and later. Is this a good trait? The effect of such thinking is what many times leads to situations that are difficult to handle and can become complicated 

The net effect of perception leads to grudges. That is how perceptions and grudges are hands in glove! Sometimes, in addition to this, the ego also gets added to this mix. That then becomes a deadly situation.  

Take the example of Kashmir. British had the whole Indian subcontinent under their rule for 150 years. When we got independence, they divided the subcontinent based on religion. India and Pakistan were created. But about Kashmir, both India and Pakistan had different perceptions which have led to 70 years of continuous conflict. Both sides think that Kashmir is rightfully theirs. Pakistan believes so because the majority population there is Muslim. But Kashmir Raja was Hindu, so he had agreed to join India. Rest as they say is history. 

Recently I came to know about the situation in a family. I know both the brother and the sister. We went to the sister’s home for chitchat. While chatting, I asked her how her brother was? She said that he was fine, with the usual routine problems in life. After some more discussion, she said, “While chatting, I remembered about our mother who died several years back.” She said, “When I was talking about our mother, my brother looked upset and suddenly said, you don’t even take her name in front of me again. I was taken aback and stopped the subject. I don’t know what had happened between the two. I don’t even remember any specific incident or clash between two of them. What grudge was formed by him against her, I don’t know.” It is a case of a family of all educated people. Outwardly I knew there was some friction, but it is prevalent between any two people. It is there between husband and wife, parents and children. Sometimes a sibling gets more support and love from parents, but there are reasons for it. Whether those reasons are right or wrong is a matter of perception. But this lady felt that it was unfortunate when she realised that her brother had a big grudge about their mother.  

Perceptions and grudges make things difficult for everybody. As we grow from childhood to adulthood, we meet and see many people. We form our opinions about them, sometimes without giving the benefit of the doubt to that person. A friend was a Chairman of a medium-sized company; his colleagues used to be afraid of him as he was a bit short-tempered. But inwardly he was a soft person. He always would ask his colleagues about their family, the children and small details about everything at their home. He was so helpful that when one of his senior managers was to go to Japan, for the first time, he made sure that he had enough winter clothing and business suits. The manager was a vegetarian, and the boss suggested to him the ways of getting the right vegetarian food. The outwardly strict person had a personality which could be compared with coconut, hard from outside and soft from within with sweet water inside — those who did not know him from close thought that he was a tough person. 

Grudges sometimes can be funny also. I joined COEP, Pune in 1967, and I got admission to the hostel. There used to be different food messes run by the students. There was a different type of food in each mess. Two were cosmopolitan, which served non-vegetarian food. Then there was one with typical Maharashtrian food, another one used to serve Maharashtrian spicy food and one used to serve Gujarati type of food. I wanted to join the mess which used to serve typical Maharashtrian food. The committee would interview the prospective candidates. The committee consisted of senior students. I was not admitted. Hence, I joined a cosmopolitan mess. During my third year, I had become senior enough and moved the Maharashtrian mess. During a chat with the committee, I asked them why I was not admitted in the first place. I was told, “You were from Bombay, and you wore a bold striped shirt for the interview. So, the majority of the committee thought that I was showing attitude!” That used to be the perception about us Bombay guys in the late 60s of the last century. I had observed that some of the students from Pune would not talk to us guys. We were supposed to be smart and a half! Later, some of them have become very dear life-long friends. It was just a matter of perception. Luckily, they did not let the perception to convert into a grudge!  

Now in my golden years, after travelling all over the world, meeting different professionals from various fields and different countries. I have understood that humans are the same everywhere. Perceptions and grudges are common traits in all human beings. Lucky ones like me did not come into contact with too many of this type! Unless of course, now some might think that I have become equivalent of Boston Brahmin! (By the way, I am a Pune Brahmin in real life)  🙂🙂

 

 

Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

Migration, Human and Birds!

Migration is a phenomenon that is happening since times unknown. Till permanent human settlements started, there was hardly any difference between human migration and migration by other species. Out of different species, birds are known to travel long distances for the reason of saving themselves from severe weather conditions. The species who could not fly had limitations of how much they could move to overcome harsh conditions. Humans must have also faced the same problems as these species. 

Polar bears handle the harsh winters differently. Nature has designed their body in such a way that they can prepare themselves in advance. The polar bears go into hibernation when the severe winter conditions begin. They go to sleep literally in caves, up to four months. They store enough food in their body and can go without food during hibernation. No other species hibernate like the bears, as per my knowledge. Turtles and other species are known to go to specific spots to lay their eggs, every year. Probably they “find” their “safe” area to lay eggs.  

Many birds like flamingos are known to travel thousands of km to protect themselves from harsh weather. It’s God’s design that has given the birds instincts and “GPS” to fly far away from their natural habitat. Human migration is a different phenomenon altogether. When did the human race move away from their nomadic phase? Once they started designing and creating various modes of transport, the migration process started. But the reasons for human migration very rarely have been the weather. In very few cases, human still moves to different locations during harsh weather conditions. It may be snow, rains or the harsh Sun! But now the reasons are many and varied. New ideas for migration keep getting added. There are so many aspects to non human migration,  maybe I will write separately on that subject. 

In migration between humans and other species, the main difference is the feelings, human bonds and the alienation that humans feelFor humans, ithe initial phase, migration started from adventure, to look for El Dorado, education, for jobs! Europeans travelled to the east to take over colonies to spread their empire. Reasons like political asylum or refuge to different countries to run away from wars or despotic regimes have now been added. Humans don’t mind going to places where the weather is harsh for improving their careers and leading better lives! My current sojourn made me think about how humans deal with the mental aspect and social aspect of life. It made me think about the assimilation of humans with the new society. It is about the social aspects of keeping in touch with friends and families back home. It is about keeping your own culture and taking part in the new culture. 

Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first wellknown migrant who went to the US to take medical education. I can’t even imagine how she must have managed it in those days. Anandibai died young at the of 22 in the year 1887. So naturally, we do not know what she went through in those days and how she handled it. Compared to the current level of communication, in those days, there was zero communication or as good as no communication. How must she have handled the initial phase after reaching the US? Did she have enough money to eat every day? Did she have sufficient warm clothing for the winter? I am sure she must have been a vegetarian, so what food did she eat in those days?  

Especially in the US and Canada, migration is nothing new. The countries came into being by the migration of the British, the Spanish and the French to that vast landmass overcoming and initially killing “the American Indians”! These countries came into being with war and migration — the main aim of reaching the landmass was to form the respective colonies.  

Since early 50 s of the last century, many people have been moving around the world, but large percentage move to the US for obvious reasons. In olden times the communication method must have been by postal mail, in today’s language snail mail. Telephones were rare in India, so communicating back home must have been difficult. know of someone who called his parents on the phone (parents had a phone at home in India) only once in fifteen years when his twins were born!   

Jaya was in the US for one year for her MS in 1980-81. We did not have phone at home in Pune. Jaya would send me a letter to fix the time on which she would call me at someone’s houseWe considered it lucky if we got connected within one hour of the set time.  

With pathbreaking changes in communication methods, today it is effortless to remain in touch with eacother. These changes help the migrated persons to be in touch with back home, and the emotional umbilical cord remains intact, helping to settle down quickly. But I have known of extreme cases of the communication spectrum.  

A classmate moved to the US in 70 s of the last century. He has travelled to India only once during these 45 plus years. I did not have the heart to ask him the reason, but from the discussion I had with him did not indicate any specific reasons– I did not probe. I know of a family who was at the other extremeTheir daughter moved after marriage. The parents would talk to her on the video chat for two to two and half hours every day for the first five years. I don’t want to become judgmental in this, but when are you going to make your children independent? I know that this same girl would have two to two and a half hours discussion or much less with her parents in a week, when she was in India.  

Migrated families have their practical difficulties. As they grow, so do their children. Those who have managed to remain connected with back home, they come for marriages and deaths in the families. That also later becomes difficult as they move up the ladder in their careers. They also want to take their family holidays in different parts of the world. Their connect becomes weak depending on case to case.  

Many people of my age now come back home to be away from harsh winters from November to March. But this is going to happen in people of my generation. How much connect will remain after we are gone is difficult to predictI always wonder how much relate will the thirdgeneration Panvalkar or Kulkarni will have with India?  

Frequency of coming “home starts reducing from one year to two years to maybe even five years. Such things can happen when parents back home don’t die early enough and get restrictions on travel. When these physical meetings start reducingI have seen in many families that the mother is waiting hoping to make that favourite dish, their “child” loved thirty years back. But the child does not have time when in India because of other commitments.  

Each individual, each family, handles these issues in their unique waysbut one thing is sure the situations will remain in flux and will keep on changing, which to me, is natural! How to handle such things? What is the magic wand? Where is the magic wandBut I hear from many of my generation, that the magic wand  is getting developed under the name of detachment!  

  

 

 

Beggars and Survivors!

I came across two articles today. Topic in one of them was how much money should we have in savings so that we survive in emergencies. The second was about homeless people in California. I have recently written a blog about people for whom thousands of crores of Rupees are also not enough.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/cheats-frauds-or-failed-businesses/

So, I am talking about the three ends of the spectrum. Super rich people are at one end and homeless are on the other end. You and I are in between where discussion about emergency funds can happen!

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Besides this, I also read one more story about a poor young girl who was standing in line to buy cooking oil for her home. People were buying in terms of half a litre, one litre and so on. When the girl reached the counter, she said, “I want to buy oil worth ten paise (like ten cents).” She put forth a पणती (picture above) – it is a lamp made out of the mud and generally lit with the help of a wick which is dipped in oil. The shopkeeper got irritated and said, “I don’t sell oil in such small quantities”. The girl said, “ But I have only so much money to buy oil; if you don’t sell me the oil, then we will not be able to cook anything at home tonight.” The shop keeper yielded to her request and filled up the lamp with oil. The girl insisted that he must take ten paise from her.

Various thoughts started coming to my mind. On one side, we have homeless people; then some people barely survive like the young girl. You and I come next in the line and then there are super-rich people. What must be going through the minds of each of these groups of people, every day? About the homeless in California, some unexpected things were revealed. In Los Angeles, as per official count, there are fifty-nine thousand homeless people.

In a rich country like the US, in LA out of a population of 4 million people, 59000 are officially homeless, but this number could easily be one hundred thousand. It means 2.5 % of the population is homeless. There would be about 15% who barely survive. If this is the statistic in LA, then what would be statistic world over? How are the homeless treated in California? You will be shocked to know about it. The following paragraph shows the extreme views of a person who is against the homeless.

Gene Gorelik, a property developer in Oakland and an aggressive critic of the homeless, recently suggested luring the thousands of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area onto party buses stocked with alcohol and sending them on a one-way trip to Mexico. “Refugee camps in Syria are cleaner than where these people live.”  

As against this, residents had installed big boulders on the sidewalks in San Fransisco to deter homeless people from erecting tents where they could live in tents. In Los Angeles, homeowners installed prickly plants for the same purpose.  This is the picture of authorities removing boulders from sidewalks!

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I understand that everybody wants the area surrounding their homes should be clean and beautiful. But unfortunately, homeless people are also a fact of life. How to handle these conflicting situations? The funds sanctioned by a town council in California were not allowed to be spent by citizens to buy a shelter for homeless people.

In India, we have heard of many stories where rehabilitation of people living in shanties created different issues. These people were given properly built homes with amenities. These people took possession of the houses, then sold the houses and moved back to shanties.

Does one like to become homeless? I don’t think so. I am sure each individual would have a different tale. Some could be penniless due to their drug habits, some may have physical disabilities, and their family does not want to support them. But one heart rendering story of a nurse is touching. She had a regular job, she was alone, and her home was free of mortgage. She was in her fifties. She was detected with a very rare form of cancer.  She was treated for nearly two years. The treatment was so expensive that her insurance coverage was insufficient. She sold her home and moved to a rented apartment. By the time she was in remission, she had no money left, even to pay the rent and she became homeless!

How should society handle such cases? If such things can happen in a prosperous state like California in the US, what would be the status in other countries in the world? During my current stay in Montreal, whenever I go out, I see a beggar or two. Some are begging, others scavenging the garbage cans!

I am sure that not every homeless person is a druggy, and they may have their true stories like that of the nurse. During my childhood in Pune and Mumbai, I used to see hundreds of beggars and homeless. One thing is sure that at least in Pune and Mumbai, the number of beggars has drastically reduced.

I am sure that the number of homeless is still significant. Many graduate, from homeless status to move to shanties. Many of these poor people do some job or the other. If there is a will, they can get some job in large cities.

But how to handle such situations? Humans have progressed, with progress come factories and other businesses. Then there is service industry which is needed to service various items. But technology is such that robots are created and automation is done to reduce the costs, thereby reducing employment. So, it is a vicious circle!

But are reactions shown by people in California justified? Is it possible for the society to keep on feeding and providing shelter to such people, lifelong? In this discussion, we have not talked about people like us. When we live a normal life, take up a job after education, save money, buy homes, pay mortgages and follow the normal life pattern. But we can also have emergencies in our lives. Suppose our income becomes zero for a short duration. How should we prepare for such eventualities? Experts say that we should keep aside money which will see us through at least for six months. By that hopefully, things will be back to normal. According to me, in the US savings done by people are small, so they think in terms of six months. But in countries like India, saving rates are higher. People would be more comfortable with savings that will see us through for a couple of years. These safety margins will change from nation to nation or society to society.

Friends after a lot of thinking, I am still not able to understand how to handle the problem of homeless people very poor people. One way could be to help them train in some skills, so they become employable. But there will be some who will never want to work for which there is no solution. But I am quite sure that in most other countries people will not treat the homeless the way they treat in them in California.

Cheats, Frauds or Failed Businesses!

Last few years have seen unprecedented situations in the construction business where tens of thousands of customers like you and me have been cheated by non-completion of the projects en mass and people are left in limbo. For many, their life’s savings have gone, on top of that, they have to pay the instalments against the loans taken by them.

Unitech, HDIL, DSK, Sahara, Amrapali group, Jaypee group are some of the companies who have cheated approximately 575000 flat owners all over India. Many cases may not have been reported for various reasons. But it is not only the builders who have done cheating. In other cases, the government and banks are cheated, the prime examples being Nirav Modi and Mallya. Recently it is found that in education “industry” too, this trend has started with staff not being paid their salaries for months together.

What is common in all these companies and individuals behind these affairs? After they started business initially, during rising markets, profits were enormous, and probably all of them felt that they had become Gods. Profits are never very high in the industry except in some IT and software related business and Narcotics! I know of an IT/Software global company who are absolute leaders in what they are doing. Even Intel is doing catchup game with them for the last 20 years. Their gross margins are 53%. So yes, the core group of people do buy Ferraris and have huge mansions. But they keep on working 24/7, 365 days. They also invest 30% of their profits every year in R & D. Recently one of their senior executives donated close to 40 million US dollars to start a Computer centre for teaching modern software technologies, at his alma mater. It was from his personal wealth.

All the cheats I am mentioning never bothered about such things and went beyond this, and started treating the companies as their private fiefdom. They diverted funds to personal accounts in hundreds of crores; additionally, they diverted money to different personally owned companies. So everything used at home, including their toilet papers, was spent by some company or the other.

The question that comes to mind is like the title of Count Leo Tolstoy story. “How much land  does a man need?” On the same lines, how much money does a family need? One crore, ten crores, hundred crores, a thousand crores? Maybe my assets are so small that I don’t understand what thousands of crores can do?

One thing is for sure, all of them become very arrogant and think that doors anywhere will open to them by saying “Open Sesame”! Probably they did open in specific corridors but current government in India, since 2014, is closing doors of their cells in jails. Or they have formally been declared fugitives. If this were to happen to me for such reasons, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror! But not these people.

How do they operate? How did they manage to cheat? In many cases, with the help of someone in the banks, in some cases by defrauding the bank. First major cheat located was Harshad Mehta, 25 years back. In connivance with officers in Bank of Karad, he magically created FD of Rs. 200/ crores and rest we know what happened.  In some instances, senior bank management may have no business sense, or they were bought with some quid pro quo deals! Chanda Kochar of ICICI appears to be the case of quid pro deal where her husbands business was helped against sanctioning of massive loans in Videocon case. In the case of Neerav Modi, there was one middle-level officer who knew the systems well. He helped Modi by doing paperwork outside the computer system. Modi would take every time even higher loans to return previous loans and balance money for himself. I had read the news that he was also in the business of fake diamonds! So maybe his working capital requirement was not high!

In the recent classic case, owners of HDIL in Mumbai joined hands with Bank Management of PM Coop Bank. The bank management ended up giving HDIL loans which were 73% of total loans sanctioned by the bank to all customers. Luckily sleuths have located 1100 acres of land purchased in last few years which is now attached. If there is a delay from the government side to find out the misdeeds, the money trail becomes very weak, and it becomes hard to track assets that can be attached. On Rs.600/ crores turnover, the family had bought two small aeroplanes, a yacht, and huge bungalow in Alibag which was used to invite makers and shakers of Mumbai and Bollywood for parties; also maybe there were collateral benefits (not damages 🙂🙂)

It also appears that these “business people” forget the basic principles once they become big. DSK is one such case from Pune. He came up with the really hard way of doing business. From small projects, he graduated to create a big condo project of about six thousand condos. He handed over the homes in time and had become famous in Pune. After this, he wanted to make a township which was worth more than Rs. Ten thousand crores (the US $ 1.6 billion). He realised that he would fall short of funds big time. Hence, he started raising money. Because of his excellent track record, people in Maharashtra gave him the money, but many internal issues were going on, which came out too late. He used the caste card and convinced Maharashtrian brahmins to keep fixed deposits with him. The deposits were serviced well initially, but later it almost looked like a Ponzi scheme. He forgot the main principle that FD’s are to be returned back to people. Interests need to be paid regularly. He started treating FD’s like equity. I have been told by a friend, one of DSK’s vendor, that vendors were treated shabbily. Kulkarni’s wife would treat vendor’s like beggars. Financially, they were already in doldrums and rumours started spreading; these were not rumours, things had gone out of control. Thousands of customers were cheated; hundreds of fixed depositors were cheated. But obviously, there was no change in his and his family’s lifestyle, they had 46 high-end cars. Their almost ready condos were also found to be under lien! The whole family went into jail. But there is no relief as most of his assets are already under some claim or the other. With all this, there was hardly any progress in the 1.6 billion dollar project!

Ranbaxy is a classic case of cheats. The promoters sold their company to Dai Itchi of Japan. But Ranbaxy concealed and misrepresented many things and finally lost their case with due arbitration in Singapore. But biggest fraud was that one of the brothers could not pay his dues to Dai Itchi as he had diverted Rs. 6700/ crores (the US $1 billion) to a Guru! It is honestly beyond my understanding what these people are trying to do and why they do it!

So it brings me back to the same question? How much money does one need? All these so-called big shots are in jail. There are huge problems faced by courts and the government as the assets of most of them cannot be sold for one reason or the other. So who will complete these stalled projects? How will the people at least get their money back?

I must share one story I was told by someone about a well-known industrialist. He had bought a Rolls Royce; after a few months, he ordered another one. When the industrialist was asked, “Why the need for the second car so soon?” The industrialist replied, ” We had dinner at my home yesterday. A well-known politician said that the car looked superb. I jokingly said, take it if you want. The person drove away in my car at night”! Quid pro quo?

Can one really spend the amount of money that is diverted in such projects? So-called fame, bungalows, homes in foreign countries, planes, yachts, but finally jail! Is the urge to mingle with movers and shakers so strong that they want to “arrive” by any means? I presume that all these are not bad people, but they lost control over their thinking. They all started thinking that the setbacks can be overcome by borrowing more, most of the time, fraudulently! Some of them have fled from India, but the government is making strong efforts to bring them back to India.

The main reason for this situation is that they all started thinking that they had become Gods; all doors to where ever they went would open with their money and fame. But only doors that finally opened for them were jail doors.