How closely do we know others? 

In our life, we meet many people. First of course is our mother and then the family. The journey continues until you die. At various stages, you make friends starting from KG to completing your education. If you are lucky, you continue to live in the same city where you were born and educated. During this phase, you make lifelong friends. Later, you start your career and get married too. For your professional work, you may be anywhere in India or may even migrate to different countries. You get additional close family members after marriage. Later, during your work phase, you meet more people. But rarely you make new friends. But now since last 10 to 15 years, you are making lots of “Friends” on FB. Many of these “friends” you hardly know them. Then you make “Friend’s Groups” on WA.

I will be writing about some friends from school and college days. It is their journey that was sometimes normal, and at other times shocking or painful.

Social networks have found us a lot of old friends (real ones), but you forget that a lot of water has gone under the bridge (in my case sometimes 50 to 60 years). I was looking for a dear friend school days. Somehow, I managed to get his cell number. The person who shared his cell number with me indicated that the friend had changed a lot. I was apprehensive when I called him. But once we started speaking, we continued almost for an hour. We did the usual things like exchanging photos, shared what we did in life. He was the good old jovial friend that I remembered from school days. But since then, whenever I call, he responds and shares life experience in general. But he has never called me, ever. I later understood that he had met with an accident in which he had a head injury. That has put him in difficulty. It has changed his personality.

I recently came in touch with another friend who was at Elphinstone College, Bombay with me for two years. All of us in those days were from lower-middle-class families trying to come up in life via education. The friend used to live in Girgaum in one of the wadis- a cluster of houses. He was studious, showing the usual lack of confidence for those days, especially in Elphinstone College. The college was well known for scholars both in science and arts stream. But the college had many students who had taken their school education in English medium schools. So, most of us were not sure-footed in the initial phase. Some continued with the same mindset until they passed out. The friend has not changed much even now and has remained the same as he was. It is an excellent tribute to him to have maintained his values from childhood.

It reminds me of another friend who was with me at Elphinstone College, but we were also from the same school. He was a reticent, smart person. He was brilliant and did quite well until we joined engineering. We were together in engineering too; he did not enjoy his engineering course, probably! He flunked in one year. After engineering, I met him again after ten years. He had entirely changed. He had started smoking and talked of alcohol enthusiastically. He was in the construction business. He would speak of millions of Rupees which was a lot of money, in the early ’80s of the previous century. Jaya was impressed with his talk. When we were coming back to Pune, I told Jaya that this is not the old friend I knew. I don’t believe in his boasting of a large amount of money.

Over a period, we started receiving the news of his failing business and some wrong business deal with people very close to him. He started drinking and smoking heavily. Funds began dwindling. He would come to Pune occasionally. He would smile the way he used to, but he had started looking haggard. He was never in a mood to listen to others. His sister suggested to him that his two children could live with her in Bombay for education. He agreed, luckily. Both his children are well settled.

Now the sad part! The friend hurtled down continuously in the vicious circle of the lack of money, alcohol and could not put the brakes on. His wife valiantly tried to support home by taking tuitions. In his final couple of years, I came to know that he would sell his household items to quench his thirst for alcohol. About fifteen years back, I got the news that he had passed. From a typical god-fearing family, an intelligent person with a pleasant personality was wasted. It would have been okay had he not been successful in business. Is it destiny that took him on the wrong path? I am aware that addiction to alcohol can ruin people, but during childhood, if someone had predicted about him, I would have simply said, Oh! Come on, not him!

The last friend I am going to talk about is a sadder case. It is because he is still around. He and I used to live in the same building and had a similar background. We were batchmates. Later as we grew, I realised that he was a little less endowed in smartness- both in studies and otherwise. He meandered through his life the way hundreds of thousands of people move. He had a routine job from which he took premature retirement. It enabled him to get some lump sum money; he had a daughter who was perpetually sick. She died about ten years back. Her illness probably hit his corpus badly. But his brave wife continues to work even today. He lives around twenty km away from Pune in a rented home. In India, suburbs are not as costly as they are in developed countries. He has lost his “Will” to do anything. He has become a chain smoker. His wife gives him an exact amount for him to buy a packet of cigarettes before she goes to the office. But my friend wanders around during the day. Once his stock of cigarettes is finished, he looks for butts. Sometimes he goes to an ATM near his home and begs for money for the cigarettes. Another friend from those days has been in touch with him all through life. He has tried to help in many ways, including psychiatric treatment. But it seems he has crossed the primary threshold. It appears that after some medicines, he will be shifted to an institution.

My eyes are still moist when I write about him. We had fantastic 6/7 years together during our childhood. We fought; we were partners in table tennis. I spoke to him a few months back, and I told Jaya that something is seriously wrong with him. I will be able to handle his death, but I am too much of a coward to meet him in this condition. I have now made my resolve to go and meet him once this lockdown situation is over. Now I have found a valid reason to avoid visiting him! 😒😒

Friends, life is beautiful, but there are peaks and troughs of happiness and sadness. I know that I will overcome this phase. But life is full of surprises, either way!

Five p. m. blog! 22032020!

You must be wondering, what is this 5 p.m. blog? Well, today on 22nd March 2020, we the people of India came together, to thank a group of citizens of India who are working tirelessly to handle the Coronavirus issue. Many of us came out clapping, blowing conches, thalis with spoons, to thank the team.The charged atmosphere and the thought that people of such a diverse nation from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Gujarat to Tripura can come together for such a cause raised goose bumps. Men usually don’t express such feeling and women do! I had become restless and the result is the blog. It may not be coherent but it has come from the bottom of my heart. How so many people forget all the difference in a calamity and come together was displayed yesterday.  No commentary needed for video below.

Mr Modi, our Prime Minister, suggested the idea. It was a gesture to try and bring as many people as possible on the same page! In the speech about the event, Mr Modi had suggested that all of us should stay at home for this day. It was for social distancing; and say a big thank you to these professionals.  It was to make people realise that this is needed and is doable. I was sure that it was a prelude to strict measures that were to follow.  

Today, most of the train services, interstate buses, Delhi Airport are being shut down.  Many districts in various states in India are now under full lock down till 31st March- to start with. Industries around Pune are also under full lockdown.

People have shared various statistical figures about Coronavirus. To me, the most crucial data is about deaths. The death percentage across multiple age groups is as below. 

  • Children &Teens:0.2% 
  • 20 s:0.2% 
  • 30 s:0.2% 
  • 40 s:0.4% 
  • 50 s:1.3% 
  • 60 s:3.2 % 
  • 70 s: 8 % 
  • 80 s: 14.8% 

Among all viruses to hit our planet, Coronavirus has spread the world over to 160 plus countries, and the number of people affected has gone above 250 thousand or 2.5 lacs. In all other pandemics, the largest was Ebola in 1976, affecting 34 thousand people. Average death percentage is around 4% in the current pandemic.  

But if you see the chart, it is the people above 70 that are in real danger. If these people have previous conditions, it is the worst situation for these peopleEverybody is talking about a small percentage of death. But that is not the correct picture. Most of the deaths are in this “risky” range of people– people in my age group and above. When there is no danger, then why should the people below forty even bother about taking care of wearing masks and social distancing?  

Friends, it is for your fathers/mothers, uncles, grandfathers/grandmothers you need to take care. You may be in a 0.2 % risk region, but these relatives are in a high-risk zone. I am sure when you look at the situation from someone else’s perspective, you will understand the real issue. Plus, these high-risk people also may have undergone some procedures, surgeries or health conditions. Blood Pressure and Diabetes are common in this age group. These preconditions increase the risk from 14.8% to a much higher percentage that I don’t know.  

It is like saying that air travel is the safest way to travel anywhere. The risk is one passenger for more than 13 million people going. But when the air crash happens, there is a chance that 100 % of people die in the crash. For those families, death is 100% certain! So, when the statistics are mentioned, it is better to decipher what is being said.  

The Coronavirus is teaching us to think about others, and on the other side, it tells you “keep distance” for social distancing! These are two conflicting things we are forced to do for our benefit! But that is life!  

What should people in the age group of seventyplus do? Everything is doable. It is the will of the people that is more important. It is what people have understood; that is what is going to make the difference.  

First and foremost is we need to go under total lockdown. In India, nobody exactly knows, at what stage is the Coronavirus spread. That is the reason the government has taken tough decisions to reduce the movement of people. It will also help to prevent people from mixing 

It is easier said than done. But give a thought, activate your grey cells, and you know what we could do. I will start with telling you what Jaya and I do! First is we go out for necessary purchases only twice a week. We go in the car though distances are small. It helps us to increase social distancing. Once we went to a shop selling ready to cook foods. We bought some soups, chicken tikka, and paneer makhani packets along with some other stuff. We usually don’t buy these things, but now we will not be going to restaurants for some time. Ten days, three weeks, one month, two months; we don’t know. It will be dependent on how the pandemic comes under control. So, some things that we eat in restaurants, we will make them at home, and yes maybe we will have candle-light dinner! Why not? One thing we have been doing for some time is playing cards. We continue to play cards every day. Of course, there are music systems, the Bose one, Caravan which has five thousand pre-recorded songs. But now we have a new tool. We bought an internet TV recently. What we do is search for jukeboxes on youtube. These could be Lata, Rafi, Madan Mohan, Sonu Nigam, Shah Rukh, Marathi bhav geete; we select different jukeboxes and listen to audios. The TV has eight speakers and gives a lovely sound!  

Why am I sharing all the details? The only reason is with the changed circumstances, with none of us being able to move out, we need to take care of our mental as well as physical health. How can we do that? For physical fitnessyou can walk around the house or in your parking area. If you are going to the parking area, make sure that you go when there are few to no people. I do it in a little different way. I have a set of dumbells and stretch band with meexercise with these and then do in-place jogging. After that, I do my bending and stretching exercises. Don’t remain physically idle else you can feel depressed.  

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Now we have morning tea in our balcony. The weather is delightful, and with a reduced cacophony of traffic, we can listen to birds chirping. Today, we went out for dinner! It’s a new place called “702”; it is in Karve Nagar. Initially, the government has declared ten days of lockdown, but we don’t know how far it will get stretched. So, we had chicken tikka and pulav at home! Jaya cooked both the dishes, and we ate at home! By the time we sat for dinner, we were too hungry. I wanted to change my dress and wear something formal as if we were going to a real restaurant. It is one more aspect I want to suggest. From tomorrow, after the siesta and coffee, we have decided to change to formal dress. Otherwise, for the next two months, we might be wearing T-shirts and track pant 24/7.  

It is an excellent time to try and do something which you have been doing previously or start something new. Celine, our family friend, has begun the cross-stitch work. She is seventy plus. Another friend shared some design that he created out of dry fruits! Mohan has taken out his stock of Wodehouse books to get through these tough times. Scratch your head, activate those grey cells. Some new idea will come out. Remain involved, no point in keeping aloof!  

It would have been easy for us to remain aloof during 5 p m event. But we were involved. It is a matter of taking control of the situation rather than getting dragged into a quagmire. You are not going out of your home. For people like me it could be a trailer of our life after five or ten years, for people in my age group! Who knows? Idea is to learn to adapt! It is in your hands how to remain happy!

 

 

 

Right or wrong! Or is it Quid Pro Quo!  

Quid1

Quid Pro quo is a favour or advantage granted in return for something. Given above is a funny representation of the term.

My father retired from the police department as DCP. His last posting was in Bombay, and he moved to Pune to live his retired life. One day he told me that his boss, the senior-most person in Bombay police, joined a large private company as the security chief, post-retirement. But my father did not join that organisation because he felt that they would not give the same respect as was given to him as a DCP.

He had a valid point. I am sure money must have been good, but in my father’s case money was the last thing on his mind. I see this type of dilemma faced by many people. What is right and wrong? Does it depend on individual circumstances, or are there any set rules? I feel that there cannot be any rules, but there could be precedents.

State Bank of India had a revenue of 2.8 trillion Indian Rupees for the year 2019. Arundhati Bhattacharya was Chairperson of SBI when she retired a couple of years back. Yesterday, I read in the newspapers that she has joined Salesforce.com as their CEO for India operations. Salesforce.com’s global revenue for 2019 was US $ 19/ billion. Their India operations to my knowledge are quite small. What would the lady who ran a colossal empire contribute to her new job? I am sure the money must be good for luring her to join. But I don’t think there is anything morally wrong in taking this step. But workwise, after SBI it would not be as challenging. I am sure that she is a great professional; she also must be in good health. She will value add to her new organisation. But I felt that the change is like running a global airline and then joining a chain which had shops on different international airports. But nobody can blame her of Quid Pro Quo!

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was yesterday made an honorary member of Rajya Sabha (the upper house of our parliament). He took the oath today among the boos! There have been editorials, Facebook comments and a lot of discussion in general that he did not do the right thing. I was also in a dilemma initially, and I did not think that it was the right thing to do, initially. But on rethinking, I am neither sure this way or that way. The Supreme Court Chief Justice is the most influential foundation of one of the pillars of democracy.

Justice1

One of my contemporaries became Bombay high court judge. Once when I met him, he said that there were many rules about their social engagements. They could not socially mix with hoi polloi like you and me. They could say hello to senior government servants if they bumped into each other in a club (Only specific clubs please). They could sit in a club with their family and not others. What did one do if the judge’s family was an influential political and business family? What is honest opinion? No two human beings have the same opinion on each subject. So if your decision is not to my liking then you are not honest, you are sold! How does one know if the judge has given an honest opinion on a subject? In some judgements, three judges from a bench give a view and other two give opposite view. Then are three honest or two?

To my knowledge, there is a complicated procedure to select high court and supreme court judges. I am sure committees do the vetting of chosen people. But these judges come from our society. They all had childhood friends, and they could have their ex’s. Judges are expected to be impartial and follow the rule of law “blindly” with justice. That is why they are called judges. When the judges find that in a case which they are handling, they were in touch in life with some persons, judges recuse themselves to remain and show that they are impartial. But as normal human beings, they have a tremendous pressure on them to be just, all the time!

The Rajya Sabha nomination in the current scenario is an honorary selection based on that person’s achievements in life in different fields. Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha were two recent examples of such nominations. I get a feeling that Ranjan Gogoi will be able to make more value addition compared to these two people. Many legal matters come up for discussions in the parliament. There are many ancient laws which the Government is trying to remove as they are irrelevant to today’s times. Indian Telegraph Act used today came into force in 1885. The telephony has changed so much that even Graham Bell will have difficulty in understanding what is happening today. I felt that Ranjan Gogoi would be a great asset to the parliament on legal matters. Why should his expertise not be used? What is the significance of not having judges in the parliament? Were the Government and the Chief Justice in Quid Pro Quo arrangement as alleged? What is Government? It is you and me. It is run by representatives elected by society. Was there any personal gain to the Government because of decisions supported by Gogoi? I don’t think so. Just because there is no precedent, the matter cannot be morally challenged. We have top police officers and armed forces officers joining politics after retirement, and they have become MP’s and ministers. Nobody talked of any Quid Pro Quo arrangement in these cases.

But I have seen some arrangements in Government and industry. I will share one example from the industry. Many years back, an organisation was legitimately trying to become a vendor to a large company. I will not go into details. But after the organisation got the entry, the real action took place. A few officers from the large company were on the verge of retirement. They had helped the entry of the vendor. These people could otherwise have quickly joined this company as they were competent professionals. But the sequence of events was such that it smelt of Quid Pro Quo arrangements. Is it morally correct? As professionals, they had many options. But their joining the vendor does not show the right attitude.

There could be a specific cooling-off period. When Jaya took voluntary retirement as additional director from a Government research organisation, she took two years of cooling-off teaching job before she joined the industry. I could understand this because her last project was with a nuclear power plant. Similarly, for other organisations or posts, the cooling-off period makes sense. But is it the right thing to not allow experts to use their knowledge? In the case of the Chief Justice, the money involved is not in crores as a member of parliament. When people say that he should not be made MP, they imply that he has breached the trust by the quid pro quo arrangement. What is the trust that he has breached? All senior officials are expected to be neutral and faithful to their organisations and jobs. If all others can do various things after retirement, why stop the Supreme Court Chief Justice?

I felt that Gogoi story is more of politics; suddenly people start riding a high horse! Polticians may get their browny points and Liberals will get a subject for discussion for next few months, over a glass of Chivas Regal. Government is already allowing lateral entry of professionals from various fields in government. So what is so special about Gogoi case? The jury is still out, pun, of course, is intended!

 

Social Distancing! Become an Ostrich!

SD2

Someone hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish. The ostrich does many things, but hiding its head in the sand is not one of them. Coronavirus situation tells us to metaphorically become an Ostrich and quarantine ourselves.

But in today’s scenario of Coronavirus pandemic, becoming an ostrich is not such a bad thing. Hide from social contacts, avoid gatherings-and sincerely hope that the problem goes away on its own.

To make this a better world, we always say that become social, (but not a social animal), meet more people and so on. But the current situation tells the human race to become incommunicado, physically!

Every society is fluid, and each generation has a new way of doing things. In my grandparents time more than a hundred year ago, the socialising was done a different way than what we do today. In those days, people found various ways of meeting each other, but these occasions were religious. You got invited to attend a pooja. Then there were some occasions where husband-wife were invited for lunch to satisfy some deity. Then in our parents times, there were different occasions for inviting people. But they were less religious.

In today’s times, the occasions have become celebratory. Birthday’s, promotions, wedding anniversary, 70th  birthday, and so on. Many times people are just invited, there may not be any occasion! But Coronavirus brought a new concept of social distancing!

Social distancing encompasses non-pharmaceutical measures for controlling the transmission of infectious disease through a reduction in the frequency of physical contact between individuals. Large-scale methods of social distancing include public education on hygiene and cough etiquette.

From social animal of the 21st century to social distancing is a big leap. Coronavirus has created significant turmoil in the world after the proliferation of social media. We have twitter, WA, Facebook and online news; the Internet facilitated most of these.

Coronavirus issue started in China. Even China, with its dictatorial regime, could not hide what was happening in China. News started trickling out, and over time China began to give official figures. Okay, nobody is sure how much suppression China has done about the real spread. But the first new phrase that started being used was Lock Down, in social context! After that, another term that is being used is social distancing. But what is social distancing besides the way it is defined above? I have made interpretation suitable for Jaya and me. We are both around 70, so complete lockdown makes a lot of sense. But there are questions galore. What should different age groups do? Who decides that? Oh, simple! WHO (the United Nations body) decides this. They give advisories, and it is a good idea to follow them. Here is the usual disclaimer, I am not a doctor, and I don’t understand much health sciences. But I am going to use common sense to discuss further.

Children are young and innocent. What happens if they play together? With schools closed, how to keep them busy?

All said and done, any human being who can move out of home independently is a potential carrier. Keeping children busy is the family’s job, so do it. It is frustrating to be with them all the time. It is tiring too! If you are lucky and can work from home, you need to explain to your kids the importance of not mixing with other kids. Howsoever frustrating it maybe you are responsible for their health and avoiding the spread in society.

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I have borrowed the above graph from someones Facebook post. We should attempt to reach graph B. In the case of graph A, there is a sudden increase in number of cases. The graph B can be achieved by correct lockdown! There is a reason. Assume that Coronavirus spread has just started in your city. The government gives suggestions, puts banners about social distancing. The real results are seen after about four weeks and after that. If your city follows the social distancing or lockdown rules seriously, the chances of more cases get reduced. You may have ¼, ½, ¾, 7/8th  lockdown. These figures mean that these many people (one in four to seven in eight) from the population have gone into social distancing mode. Since China was the first country to face this, they took some time to understand the importance of social distancing. Hence before they knew what hit them, the pandemic spread exponentially- means more and more people got affected rapidly. The more the numbers means more carriers and chances of spread are very high.

In India, we are still in phase one. If we rapidly go into social distancing, the spread will happen at a slower rate and tapering off will be faster. It will also ensure that a small number of people are affected. Please understand that it depends on us, the government can only be a facilitator, but we must act.

I am writing below some scenarios in QA format for the ease of understanding.

Should I limit my physical interaction with my partner and family members?

As far as possible avoid but if all of you are under the same lockdown, then maybe it is okay.

Should I avoid common spaces in my apartment?

Yes and no. If you must go then go at a time when not many people are around, say 6 am. But avoid touching the surfaces like benches.

Should I avoid haircut?

It is a tricky one. But if you can discuss with your hairdresser, and suggest to him the use of sanitisers, disinfectants and provided he shows no symptoms you get the hair cut but reduce frequency.

Should I stop visiting elderly relatives?

Yes, definitely. Since this group is the most susceptible, they should be allowed more quarantine. You could be a carrier. Or maybe you designate someone from the family, and only that person should visit if the person is without symptoms.

We, siblings, are all 70 plus, should we meet once in a while if we have no symptoms?

Honestly speaking, you should avoid meeting if you are living separately. You are in the most susceptible range.

Should we cancel wedding receptions or birthday parties?

It is better to err on the safer side. There could be pregnant women too, who are equally susceptible. In large gatherings, it is not practical to ask everybody about the health condition.

Should I avoid public transport?

Yes, if it is possible. Anyway, avoid going out. But if you must, you may think of using Uber etc.

I am healthy and young. Should I go to bars?

I would say no. Your condition would be helpful, and you may not get infected. Your body will fight the virus quickly. But you could become a carrier and may become a party to spreading the virus.

What items should I store for emergencies?

Store routine eating stuff, medicines and paracetamol, drug suggested for Coronavirus. But definitely don’t horde toilet paper! Why normal people behave in a funny manner is difficult to explain. I have read enough toilet paper stories from the world over. Let the system stabilise for the new norms. Grocery, pharmacies, hospitals and all essential services are going to remain open!

From IT, many companies are telling their people to work from home. In Pune, Tata Motors became the first engineering company that allowed their purchase team to work from home. Working from home is an excellent concept if people work sincerely and earnestly. I hear from many that people take disadvantage of this concept, sometimes. The current pandemic is a unique opportunity for IT companies to study the “working from home” concept in details. They may realise that in normal circumstances too, xx percentage of people could always work from home. If the current scenario continues for an extended period, new SOP’s (standard operating procedures) could be created, and these people could be asked to work from home, always. It could be an excellent cost-saving for businesses as they will need smaller buildings, and people will drive less. It will be useful for the environment. There will be many such advantages.

After all, the  Ostrich will be not be hiding his head in the sand. It is putting it’s thinking cap on!

The great equalisers! Our Habits!

There are many equalisers in this world. The top of the list is death. In death, there is no difference if someone is old or young. All are equal, whether super-rich or super poor! But India is a unique country with a diverse population, caste and creed, many religions and five-thousand-year-old civilisation. We rightly boast of our history. In fact, sometimes we boast of these things ad-nauseum. We are proud of many things, but we forget that along with some fantastically great things, we have carried forward some horrible ways of behaviour.

Paan3

People have a great habit of drinking water while driving vehicles. It is a typical habit of driver community, those who drive taxis or buses. Imagine cruising at a speed of 100 km on a highway. You are in a sizeable Volvo bus or an Innova. Suddenly, the driver bends to side, picks up his water bottle. He starts drinking the water from the bottle at that speed, holding the steering with one hand. Oh, and religion does not play any role here. He could be from any religion. He is a human being and gets thirsty. I am good with that, but what is the issue in stopping the vehicle and drinking water? We usually stop on the highways, after a couple of hours. Can’t these folks wait for a small duration to drink their water quota? They are not going to die in half an hour if they remain thirsty.

Man being splashed by cold water under Drive Thru sign that says 'Quick Refresher'.

These same folks perform another action. Before drinking water, they gargle a bit and spit a mouth full of water. Where? Wherever they are! I remember one more queer action by people on highways. After each toll booth, there are urinals. Our friends will drive a few kilometers from the toll booth, stop and pass urine-open air! Oh! The pleasure!

Now auto-rickshaw drivers in cities have picked up another similar habit. Now they use earbuds while driving, to listen to music.

Why such behaviour takes place? One, I care two hoots attitude! Who is bothered about public hygiene? Another reason for this is the weather. People don’t understand that we are blessed with beautiful, warm weather almost round the year. Try open-air urination at minus 15 deg C! Another aspect is women folk don’t indulge in this act because of modesty! But we don’t see the women drinking water at 100 km speed. Neither do we see them spitting gargled water! They are more sensible than men!

Another trait that we observe in India is spitting in public spaces. Are these issues due to the historical culture of chewing betel leaf (Paan) and tobacco? The vices developed in the five thousand years of chewing paan with tobacco or only tobacco have messed our cleanliness culture. Sometimes, I feel that there is no difference in the dogs and these people. You must have seen that the dogs do their natural thing where ever they are and whenever they feel like it. Dogs have been human pets for a long time. But now a new trend of adopting dogs has also come up. After marriage, some couples don’t want kids; neither do they want to choose humans. They adopt dogs. But in foreign countries, humans take the responsibility of clearing the dog poop! We don’t bother about such stupid stuff in India.

But in India, the more intelligent race, the humans, spit anywhere and any number of times. Once I was waiting for the red signal to become green. An auto-rickshaw guy was waiting next to me. In the one minute that I was waiting at the traffic signal, our friend spat his tobacco juices at least five times. I was so frustrated, and I stopped looking at him.

What has happened to our mature culture? Are we mentally still trapped in the olden times when everybody lived in villages? There were no tar or concrete roads and buildings in olden times. So, the spit at least merged with the dust. Not that spitting was the correct thing to do. Now the favourite places for spitting the betel juice seem to be the corners in the staircases, especially of public buildings. In many buildings, I have seen tiles with Ganapati photo are fitted in the corners. But the human urge of spitting is more than the respect for God! They spit on such tiles too! It looks like we are very efficient in passing on such culture to the next generation. Add to this our unique attitude of not bothering about others. But people forget that germs can and do get spread by spitting. What about cleanliness? Oh! What is that?

Another gem from our culture is the Tatti culture! In olden days, when there were no modern toilets, people would go for their morning ablutions to the fields. Modern washrooms have been available for some time now. Since last five years, the Indian Government has started cleanliness drive under the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan. Government is offering money to people in villages and sometimes in cities to build washrooms. Oh, but they don’t pay the people to use them. Government has also made a law that people who do not have a modern toilet at home, cannot stand for elections. So, people take the money, build the toilets and use the fields for the morning things. Why? Oh, it feels so manly! Manly culture is still prevalent in the Northern part of India. “Tatti Karni hai to kheto mein!” (I would rather S**t in the fields!)

Many times, people from western countries say that they believe in God after visiting India. They know that it exists after they observe our behaviour. They are surprised that there are no continuous epidemics in India, looking at the cleanliness culture that we follow in public places. Go to any public site, and the toilets indicate the culture. The other day, I went for work in a large organisation in Pune. While waiting at the security area, I went and used the urinal. If large private establishments cannot maintain the cleanliness levels, who will do it? I felt ashamed that day.

We have developed another dangerous trait in the last 50 years. I was visiting an organisation, the road there was at least 30 meters wide. I slowed down, waited for the traffic from the opposite direction to pass. My headlights were ON; my right indicator was ON! I thought that I had a smooth opportunity to take a right turn and enter the gates. I was ten feet from the gate, and a bike swerved and passed between the entrance and my car. I sighed in relief, and suddenly another bike came and passed through the small gap between the access and my vehicle, this time distance was five feet. Imagine, I was moving albeit slowly as I was taking a turn. I braked hard and simply gave up!

Friends, we are a lovely country with a great diversity of nature, people, religion and traits. But there are traits which discussed are common irrespective of diversity. Why is this so? Is it in our DNA? Is it that we don’t want to go away from what we have been doing for thousands of years? Governments can do only up to so much. It is for us to ultimately improve and change society. Due to Coronavirus many mandirs, Jatras are closed. Will God punish us for doing such unheard-of things? But is there God? That friends is the basic question. It is said the cleanliness is the same as godliness. Why not take that path?

Corona- a different “not to miss” viewpoint!  

Obviously, you are thinking of giving a miss to this blogpost! Oh, come on not another one Pramod, we are getting enough on social media! We have better things to do! But let me warn you, you miss reading this at your own peril! Initially, I will mention very briefly about the virus, and then I will switch over to different aspects of the situation.  

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous. 

What is different is how the pandemic is affecting our life. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is social media, instant communication. These two are helping people to understand the situation; at the same time, it creates confusion in the minds of the people. Another important aspect is it does not allow governments to hide anything.  

The current situations have never been seen before. Let me explain what I mean. First, the good part which does not mean it is correct. In Pune, a family has gone to Malaysia on holiday. Two hundred families are living in their society. They are supposed to come back tomorrow. The committee from the community has made an application to the police station not to allow them to live in their home for two weeks, the quarantine period. How could you do that? There are set procedures. If any of the family members is found positive in the test, they would be quarantined in any case. It is not the job of the police to take care of these things.  

Next is rumour-mongering on the net and verbal. We are training our home staff about hand washing and other cleanliness aspects, besides telling them why it should be done. They dont wear a mask during travel on public transport but use stoles to cover their mouth and nose. One of them came home. She was very excited and told Jaya a story. She said, Someone told me that in a housing society, a Corona Virus patient was detected. Authorities asked all two hundred families to vacate their homes. Jaya said, In such cases, the patient is moved to the hospital, and maybe the whole colony will be fumigated. Where will they move 200 families? Rumour mongering has now reached a new level. 

What is the collateral damage because of the pandemic? The world economy is already in recession, and the epidemic is hitting the market sentiment hard. Markets are crashing the world over. Nobody is sure where the bottom is? It currently appears to be bottomless pit!  

It has affected the Oil prices, which is a boon to oil-importing economies. In some countries, the Petrol price will come down, and in other economies, the additional money is used to reduce the current account deficit. How long this will continue is difficult to predict.  

Opec countries tried to curtail production as per reduced demand so that oil prices will not slide, but Russia ignored them, and the price continues the downslide. Again, it looks like a bottomless pit. The most important and critical aspect of the situation is nobody can predict how long it will continue! What will be the effect of this unknown parameter?

For families having young kids, it is going to be tough. Husband and wife are working, and schools declare that they will close for a period. How will these families manage? There is a possibility that the creches also will be shut down. For some time, parents may be able to work from home. But there are jobs where working from home is not an option! Surgeons, Drivers, Nurses are some of the tasks that cannot be performed from home. A parent may have to resign, but how will organisations continue to run if people start quitting in large numbers. It is a cache 22 situation which reminds me of a joke. Bob calls the bartender where friends meet every day for drinks. He says, “Tell my friends that I am drinking from home today!”  

In severe circumstances, how people would react is challenging to judge. I am getting feedback from family and friends that people are hoarding toilet papers of all the things in western countries. I would rather keep milk, medicines, bread, vegetables and meat! People dont know that there is an Indian method, that eliminates the use of toilet paper. Another Indian method of avoiding touch is Namaste! Westerners have started accepting it.

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Anand Mahindra has suggested that it is an excellent opportunity to push Swatchha Bharat mission. People should be coaxed into following cleanliness drill; they should also be encouraged to pursue cleanliness, life long, not only during the Coronavirus issue. He also said that the world understood the perils of depending solely on China for many things. It is an excellent opportunity that India should grab.  

A friend of mine travelled abroad on the same day the Indian Government declared self-imposed quarantine. He is older than me. His other colleagues opted out of the travel. I feel that it is a rather foolhardy decision. 

What are other collateral damages? A friends son who works in the US has come to India for stamping of the US visa on his passport. Now it is tricky for him to travel back to the US with travel ban to the US from European airports.  

In Dehu gaon, thousands of people came together to celebrate the birth of Tukaram Maharaj. Coronavirus what is that? Oh, karma will take care of the situation. HE and Tukaram Maharaj will ensure that we will not be infected.  

Have you heard of honeymoon bridge game? My dear friend Nayan informed me the two clubs where they play bridge have told them that no bridge can be played at the clubs in San Jose. I said, “Nayan, now there is a big problem. Husbands and wives will have to spend time together all the time.” Nayan said, “Let’s call it Honeymoon Bridge!” Great idea and it is a good side effect, depending on one’s perspective! A few years back, when Jaya and I were taking Alaska Cruise, a friend asked me how many people are there in our group. I said, “Two”! He was shocked and said what you guys are going to do on the cruise for seven days. Well! 

On the commercial front, there will be severe effects. It starts with you and me cancelling unnecessary travel; hence tickets cancellation has become the name of the game. The outcome will be a reduced number of flights. On top of that, the governments have announced a lockdown for travellers from certain countries. Domino effect starts from the airports, taxis at the airport, restaurants, gift shops all are going to be severely affected with reduced footfall. Outside the airport, hotels and restaurants, at various destination have already started receiving cancellations. Some areas in many countries are dependent solely on tourists, and large establishments will have business issues. But small-time vendors will have survival problems.  Government agencies are acting tough with hoarders. One chemist near my home sold a mask at double the price and said he would not give an invoice. Unfortunately for him, the customer was a government inspector. His shop was locked and sealed immediately, and the process of cancelling his license has started.

I have kept my promise. Have I discussed anything about Coronavirus? I have talked about collateral damage and life around the pandemic. Friends take things in stride, but you be careful. Follow instructions shared by experts. Avoid unnecessary travel and mixing with people, after all, friends from my generation are in the zone, where one can get easily affected.  

 

Stay Calm! Tantrums Don’t Help!

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Stay Calm is a sentence straightforward to say but difficult to follow! Especially when you are young.

Using mental models can help you diffuse some of the emotions that create an unproductive dynamic. They can also help you bring forward valuable, relevant information to assist the different sides in improving their decision-making or concluding to start the process of going forward. I am talking of calmness while discussing various things. It could be a business meeting, or Parents teacher association meeting. It can also be a discussion between a husband and a wife or any family discussion. I have a pet theory. There are always two sides to everything except a birth or a death. These two events are absolute, and there are no two sides to these two events.

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I had previously used the above image in a blog. There are two sides to any argument, but since people don’t visualise both sides of the debate, there are disputes, clashes galore. If you are lucky, you learn early to remain calm in your youth. But many times, this does not happen. Young people are called hot-tempered, hot-blooded, and so on. But everyone must learn to become calm and argue positively with an intent to resolve the issue. I have so many examples to share with you, and I am not sure which ones to elaborate. One thing I learned over a period, you can be calm and confident at the same time.

The year was 1975; I used to work in an extrusion plant. I had a typical short temper when someone argued against my viewpoint. Around Diwali, our Chairman called a colleague and me, both principled and 25 years of age. He said, “Take the car and go to Lonavala to the xxx factory to wish Happy Diwali to the big boss over there, on my behalf. Take a big box of sweets with you.” For us, it was a lovely little picnic. We reached there and waited outside the cabin to be called in. We were invited in, and even before sitting, we smartly wished the boss a Happy Diwali.

We wanted to shake hands with him and offer him the sweets. Something unexpected happened. The boss exploded and gave us hiding of our lives. He was upset that we had offered him the sweets. He said, “Don’t you know that I never accept any gifts? Did your Chairman never tell you about this?” He continued his tirade for fifteen minutes. I was boiling from inside, but slowly I realised that he was telling us his feelings about our boss, we were proxies! After he stopped, I asked him if I could speak. He nodded. I said, “Sir, we were following instructions, and we were representing our boss. Had we known about your principles, we would have come to wish you, without sweets. I sincerely apologise.” The boss looked at me with disgust, but probably realised sincerity in what I was saying. Then he smiled, “Ok kids, now you sit down. What would have tea or coffee?” He was altogether a different person. He said, “When I was your age, I used to be short-tempered but now..” I smiled and said, “I am lucky that I never met you when you were young!” He laughed loudly and said, “I like you. You are very mature at a young age.” That was my first lesson as an adult to understand that there is always another side to any situation. We were probably caught in the crossfire of two older seniors but survived.

On our way back to Pune, I told my colleague that I had never expected two extreme reactions in half an hour sitting. But I learnt a lesson that even from a simple situation, extreme but valid responses could come up.

In our lives, we can resolve tricky situations with correct but soft responses. Heated exchange evokes reactions that are equally hot irrespective of their correctness. Once I was walking on a footpath in Pune. Suddenly, I felt some action from the backside. In the usual cacophony of Pune roads, I had not heard a bike just behind me. I was stunned as I would have bumped into him if I had changed my direction. I was distraught, but I said, “Sir, I sincerely apologise because I am in your way on this footpath. Should I touch your feet to show my sincerity?” He was ashamed, and with a meek face, he got down and walked away from me. If I had shouted at him, he would have given me back as if it was his birthright to drive the bike on the footpath.

In the first example, the boss was right. I am sure that he must have told our Chairman many times not to send sweets. So, his anger was justified. But I had to handle the other side too! When we went back to our office, I met the Chairman but never told him about the episode. I told him that “the boss” did not accept the sweets but has sent Diwali wishes to you. My Chairman said, “you should have tried a little more!” I still don’t know what is right and what is wrong! But one thing was sure that I was right!

In professional work, you meet different type of people and many times you don’t know their background. So, it is difficult to judge what the reaction could be in any situation. There was a person in a large organisation, and he was head of Purchase. He was known to be a nasty person, and his problem was that he was too fond of Alcohol. People avoided dealing with him in early mornings. I was an adviser to an organisation. I was young and was slowly mellowing. One day, I went to the customer’s factory. Those were the days of “landline” and no cell phones. In our organisation, there was some labour unrest. I talked to our factory on reaching the customer’s office, and I had collected up to date information about the labour situation as well as supply status.

I bumped into our man, and he almost pulled me in his office. He gave me a piece of his mind and said, “You are just roaming around and are not bothered; my production line will stop because of you!” I tried to explain to him, but he would not let me do it. Finally,  when I could speak after his tyranny, I could tell him point by point status of the labour situation, production and supply condition, and so on. I ended with, “This is the situation five minutes before I came into your office. Kindly let me call my Chairman just now so that you will know the exact status.” Our Chairman told him the exact same information. Our man was upset for different reasons. Maybe he had fought with his wife before leaving home, or perhaps his boss had blasted him for some reason. One should use meetings to discuss and debate ways of improving communication. It ensures that outcomes are generally better in future. It also makes sure that time is adequately used instead of going into shouting mode.

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At the very least, I walked away from these meetings with a much better understanding of how the world works, and I learned some strategies I could implement in the future to leverage this knowledge instead of fighting against it. Calmness from one side in “hot” situations is a handy tool. Many people with whom I have dealt for work, tell me that they used to envy me because I always had a smile on my face, howsoever tense was the situation. Of course, I get my final certificate from Jaya! She says, “Pramod has a real short temper!” 🤣🤣