The world is my Oyster!

Adab and Namaste!

My nephew Atul used to go to the UK to work as a doctor. He would go for a small duration, and every time he went to a new place. The English spoken in each area was so different that he sometimes wondered if he knew English at all! It took him a couple of days to get used to the pronunciations. In today’s world when your whole family may live world over but for that we all must understand the nuiances of human behaviour. We should not be judgmental about other people’s ways, rituals, methods and their way of life in general. Those who assimilate faster where they go can then say, “The World is my Oyster”!

The nature of humans, their behaviour, their way of handling life is different. We have similar differences in India too! Like Marathi spoken in Pune, Satara, Kolhapur have their distinct flavours and dialects. Aurangabad and Nagpur have their own variants. It all depends on the culture prevalent in that area. Aurangabad was more connected to Hyderabad and Nagpur is still more attached to Madhya Pradesh though both are in Maharashtra.

I was wondering why this happens, and there are reasons. Many times, the culture depends on the construct of the language spoken in that area. English is by far the most flexible language and has absorbed many words from other languages, mainly from Indian languages. It makes the language more vibrant, and people can express what they want more clearly.

French usually give a vague answer to queries, and they may start with a reply which may seem negative. The reason for this is that the French language has 70000 words compared to 500000 words in English. So answers in English can be more precise, where French replies are vague. The first and most important NO in French is the one that means ‘je ne sais pas’ the ‘I have no idea’ NO. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the NOS encountered are to conceal a lack of knowledge. It likely comes from the terror of ridicule for being wrong. The word non in French has its roots in the French obsession for protests. “The French Revolution was about the irrevocable right of all citizens to refuse, and ‘non’ has a quality of ‘revanche des petits contre les grands’ [revenge of the underclasses] that seems to satisfy the inner peasant or proletarian in every French person, of any class.

The unique Indian gesture that often leaves visitors to the country flummoxed is the Indian nod. One thing all travellers to India talk about – apart from the dreaded Delhi Belly, of course – is the great Indian head nod. It’s not exactly a nod (up and down from the neck, meant to indicate ‘yes’) – or a shake (straight side to side to convey ‘no’). It’s a smooth movement that involves tilting the head from side to side vertically, either gently or fiercely. Does it mean a definite, yes? Is that a kind no? A maybe? A sign of uncertainty? Annoyance perhaps? It is difficult to say without knowledge of the context. It is almost always a ‘yes’, or at least indicates agreement. “There is also an element of being friendly or being respectful, and it is difficult to say which unless you know the situation.” Indians are brought up to be pliant and polite, especially to guests and to elders, and do not like to say ‘no’ directly. Indians mumble incoherently; smile sheepishly, and nod vaguely, all to put off making a firm commitment. Indeed, the head nod is a gesture meant to convey ambiguity and does so effectively.

Finnish people have different ways. Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. One of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’. But read the next surprising aspect of the Finnish people. With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off. Probably they don’t look at each other much while wearing clothes and hence don’t recognise them!

Germans and their language have different ways of expressing things. Many new words get created by combining more than one word. Schadenfreude means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Schadenfreude puts together schaden (harm) and freude (pleasure) – but this is common. Compound words often can’t be directly translated into other languages, so jokes made with compound words simply won’t be funny to non-German speakers. For example, look at this joke below.

“Why can’t you pick up your watch if you’ve dropped it? Because no Urheberrecht.”

It is explained that Urheberrecht means ‘copyright’ – but German has another very similarly pronounced compound word – Uhreberrecht – which has a literal meaning of ‘watch-pickup-right’. When spoken aloud, it’s the dual implication that results in a comical effect. In English, there are no such similar-sounding words, so English speaking people simply won’t understand the joke.

The German comedian Christian Schulte-Loh explains it well. Fully aware of the stereotype the Germans are labelled with, he writes in his new book, Zum Lachen auf die Insel (To England with Laughs), that Germans are too honest to be polite and the English are too polite, to be honest.

Why people behave in a certain way? Why people react in a certain way? One thing we must realise is that people world over are the same as everywhere else. The way we feel that the actions of other people as funny, other people also feel the same way about us. It is a popular notion in India to call a stingy person, Marwari! There is a reason. The Marwari people initially lived in Rajasthan in the desert region. It was the shortage of water and everything that made people care about using all resources. Now the Marwaris live all over India, they are a monied community, but their fundamental nature of minimum wastage has not changed.

I have seen that people in the Aurangabad area have a different way of communicating. People typically say namaskar whenever they meet. But in Aurangabad, I have seen people doing Adab, and their gesture is made in the way as is done in Muslim culture. Why is this so? Aurangabad is in Maharashtra. But the reason is that till ’60 s of the last century, there was no bridge on the river Godavari at Pravara Sangam. Bus from Pune would go up to the river, people crossed the river in a boat and took another bus from there to Aurangabad. Hence Aurangabad had more connection with Hyderabad, which has Muslim culture. By the way, one interesting observation. People from Aurangabad become परेशान  when they are troubled! A word typically used there.

People travel a lot these days, in India as well as abroad. I always tell friends to keep their mind open and accept what you find different in new places. Enjoy local food at those places. Go and see local plays and dances. The more we see these new things, the more we realise that people are the same all over the world!

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् is the apt term in Sanskrit, meaning the whole world is a family!

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Status Quo, Election-nama!

Status Quo means the present state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. In life, we humans try to avoid change and want the status quo. Such a status quo is what politicians always hope to achieve. When the status quo is maintained, life becomes easy for them to manage. India gained independence in 1947; we were a vast nation with a significant population. British had plundered the national wealth for their benefit. Add to this the partition that created a new nation Pakistan. The Indian nation survived the first fifteen years on the goodwill of millions of Hindu Gods! There were crises after crises which were somehow overcome with the help of the United Nations and other countries like the USA and Russia.

British had left behind the legacy of brown sahib’s in the form of Indian administrative service. The charismatic leadership of Nehru took over the reins of running the nation. Majority of people poor and rich, both were awed by Nehru and the ICS/IAS officers and their ilk. After Nehru’s death, with a small break, his daughter took over the Prime Ministership. It was the Dynastic succession, and all others were treated as commoners. Commoners had no chance! Running a Dynastic style strives for the status quo, to hell with India, especially poor and uneducated Bharat. To maintain the status quo, you need sycophants. Suddenly, training schools giving a degree in sycophancy mushroomed! Ironclad administrative infrastructure and the sycophants made sure that the whole country was anaesthetised! Whatever the kings and queens did was accepted without much challenge. Masses were kept uninformed and poor! Those questioning the royalty were steamrolled! A minor spectre of a group of people challenging the Dynasty was a blink on the horizon with a couple of seats in the Loksabha, in early ’80 s!

The nation was on the growth rate of around 2%, which many called as Hindu Growth rate! In 1992, India had to take significant loans against the national gold reserves. We were forced to improve laws to make the atmosphere business friendly. After a gap of a few years, the Dynasty again took over as if the nation was bereft of competent and capable leaders. The dynastic grip led to the birth of influential regional leaders. The era of coalition governments had started. Still, the status quo was primarily maintained by the rulers with license raj and coterie of prominent businesspeople. Nation had started growing at a faster pace from 2% to 7%. The more rapid growth was the result of changes in laws and the birth of the IT industry where Indians showed a flair to shine! The world started to notice India and many multinational companies started coming to India. Still, the dynasty rule by proxy came back with a break of five years. While they ruled, the status quo was maintained. But during their latest, ten-year stint, many scandals and financial irregularities came out. The scandals finally broke the stranglehold of the family, and the current government came in power. But this new government was the culmination of the spectre that was seen as a blink in early ’80 s of the last century. Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014.

It became evident that the new government wanted to do things differently to change the way of people’s approach. They wanted more participation from people; they did many things to bring back the anesthetised population to senses. But dynasts and their coterie treated this victory as beginners luck. They were a bit stunned with the idea that a non-Delhi person with no propah English accent became the prime minister. This person was neither Oxford-educated nor was he from a great family lineage. The rulers of India have to be Oxford/Harvard guys as they had to handle the IAS led infrastructure. The administrative gang was one group which knew that once they came out of Mussoorie school, they were the kings! No one in this world could touch them except for transferring them. How can a senior bureaucrat be expected to reach his office every day at nine am and swipe his card? On top of this, there were stories that their team of servants was likely to be eliminated. Please read the article below on the subject.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/modi-government-lok-sabha-elections-2019-indian-bureaucracy-ias

Combination of status quo raj and relaxed approach to administration was one of the primary reasons India was able to continue with large scale corruption, loan frauds which remained hidden due to quid pro quo approach by business people and administrators/bankers. The group of dynasts and administrators was complimented by the creation of a group of media gang which is now infamously known as Khan market gang. Khan market gang supported the dynasty and their coterie irrespective of results of their work.

Along with the new government came up another group, which came to be known as “Tukde, Tukde gang”, came to the fore! This gang was leftist, liberal and generally sympathised with anything that was done against the government, including armed rebellion. Showing support to proven terrorist was their specialisation. This gang was not afraid to go to jail. In real life, they were perpetual postgraduate or doctoral students. They got free publicity from the media all the time. Their main aim was to keep turmoil boiling, under the guise of liberal views.

During the current election campaign, all the above were anesthetised into thinking that what Modi government had been doing, was despised by the common man. There was a big hoopla about how the days of the government are numbered. Regional satraps like Naidu, Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and others started behaving as if it was only a question of crossing 23rd May to start taking oath in the new government at the Centre.

They never knew what the population of India was thinking. The highly educated, middle class, poor all were enlightened by the revolution of social media; caste, was not in the equation this time. Caste politics was thrown out of the window. Citadels were flattened, dreams of the above gangs were shattered. Campaigns reached such low levels that the prime minister, the chief ministers and other senior people were openly called thieves. The opposition parties continuously kept on challenging the Supreme Court and Election Commission with frivolous petitions.

The opposition parties had raised the temperature of the system in general. They created hype and started believing it. Rajasthan chief minister had claimed that since Congress had won the state election only six months back, they will win all 25 Loksabha seats in Rajasthan. They lost all!

When the exit poll results started coming out, there were indications that current the BJP government could get 300 plus seats. At one end of the spectrum, the figure was around 240, and at the other end, it was 350. The 350 number predicted by Axis/India Today combination was trolled by saying that they were “sold”. The “knowledgeable” gang of reporters/experts started sharing their knowledge and opinion that these are final days of Modi government. Anaesthesia effect was seen again. In the end, Axis/India Today predictions were vindicated.

Friends, I can keep writing on a lot, on this subject. What I have written is not about parties, candidates, results etc. But I tried to write about how the nation was put out to sleep by a combination of Dynasts, non-flexible bureaucrats and their ancient systems formalised by British, to suit them. Later the team of Liberal, foreign-trained Oxford or Cambridge educated media experts joined the bandwagon. All of them supported the old style, Dynastic style of working and put everybody to sleep. Unfortunately, they also went to sleep and did not know that India had moved on. The opposition simply did not accept these figures. Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of saying, “All this is gossip which I don’t believe. But I am afraid by calculating these extravagant figures, the ruling party will hack EVM’s all over India and cook the figures to match exit polls.”

There is one funny side to hacking theory. Rahul Gandhi lost in Amethi but won in Waynad with the highest margin. Supriya Sule, Pawar’s daughter, won but his nephew lost. Which EVM’s were hacked?

Finally, when they woke up from the deep slumber on 23rd May, 303/353 and 17 times 0 and few times 1 per state were the numbers that became famous! Majority population had woken up, and they have given BJP a mandate to take them on a progressive path for the next five years. I hope that the opposition team also wakes up, pulls up their socks and forms a robust and healthy opposition with constructive politics! Jaihind!

Long Live India!

India is a country of paradoxes. More you get to know about it the more you will get perplexed! I am born and brought up in India and all my life I have lived in India. I always think and feel that I know a lot about India. But I have realized that I hardly know about thought processes going on India. Some acts & traits of people can be said to be because of too much poverty or too much money! I thought that I am generally able to classify things! But it appears that if I appear for a test about Indian way of behaving or reactions, I will fail miserably. 

My friend Suresh who lives in Sydney, Australia told me a story. I was simply stunned after I heard the story! Their neighbours in Sydney are of Indian origin. A 30-year old person from that family, a Chartered Accountant by training, met him. He told my friend, “I am going to India for a holiday”, so Suresh said, “Have fun”! Suresh asked him where will he take his fun filled holiday, in India. The guy said, “First thing that I am going to do is to the break traffic signals at least 30/40 times. I feel claustrophobic due to the disciplined and organized way of life in Australia.” Suresh said, “You can do it here too, as many times as you want.” The guy said, “Here I will lose my license, is it not?” 

What do you say of such guys? Educated, living in foreign rich country, his idea of having fun in India is to break traffic signals 30/40 times. How to react to such statements? I am numb! I always thought that Indian diaspora living in foreign countries will add to betterment and disciplined behavior in India because they live day in and day out in disciplined society! With such obnoxious thought processes, ISRO’s achievements are brought to the earth with a thud! What will you do with digital and progressive India? Progressive India is a myth one feels! What is the use of making world’s largest biometric individual id system? One really feels disheartened.  

But I always feel, that at heart, Indians do not want to follow basic discipline. Take simple case of round abouts, a square with no signals! In the US, I have seen that at such round abouts, traffic is always smooth as ALL follow discipline and go by the rule of right of way! In India, we follow the method of might of way! If there is a jam with this method, two wheelers will simply go on footpath! What would you call such behavior? Why do these things happen? There appears to be a production line consistency of people who simply break all possible rules. Somebody said that this is because of migration in India from villages to cities! But what about our migrants living in Sydney?  

The caricature below depicts the skew thinking of Indian populace. Since the dialogue is written in Marathi, I will explain. The father asks his daughter, what happened with the boy you were courting? Love at second sight? She says that she had almost decided to chuck him, when she first saw him,  as he always chewed tobacco and spit on the road. The father is relieved but then she says that second time I saw him, she finally decided to marry him because she saw him spitting from his fancy brand new Audi!  

 TobaccoAudi

Another caricature below displays a lady talking to her friend. She says that she was to give a speech on Anti-Superstition. But on the way a black cat crossed her path hence she returned back. 

 BlackCat

Caricatures are meant as sarcastic or satiric remarks on situations. In real life, these sorts of things are so predominant, that it does not remain a caricature anymore but becomes the real-life depiction of the way things are happening in our society. Money over rides everything including bad social etiquettes. We may preach things about superstition but when it comes to personal behavior, we will follow the superstition path! I live in an eleven-story high-end condo; one of my cars is always in the uncovered parking. Every day, on this car I either find pieces of bread or rice. The balcony of one of the condos is living quarter for their pet dogs! So, my car knows every day what the dog eats. If I park my car at another open space, it will be covered with a lot of water and clay! Somebody waters their plants in the balcony but feels that my car also needs water and clay on its roof! What do you say about such people?  

Recently, in the state of Rajasthan, a Hindu man killed a Muslim man, a jilted lover of his wife. Then he burnt that man’s body and took video film and shared it on social media. Police action started but suddenly the social media became active to support the man! Not the murdered man but the murderer! Can you believe it? People wanted to support the murderer! They even collected a few lacs of Rupees to give to the wife of murderer, as he was in jail. There is a video evidence of what has happened and yet the people want to support the murderer. People started using WhatsApp and FB to collect a big crowd to protest on behalf of the murderer! Government had to shut down Social Media in those areas to avoid ugly scenes. Any comments?  

Honestly, I am a very positive guy and think very positively about India. I am proud of our culture, sub culture, cross cultures! We are very large sized European Union and our eating habits, cultures, the way we look are vastly different. Normally, we live peacefully. But it is the incidents mentioned above and especially about the educated Indian from Sydney that my faith is shaken. When I sleep over this blog, I will definitely come out of the melancholy mood I am in! Tomorrow morning when I see the lovely atmosphere with hills in the background and birds flying, I will back to normal! Long Live India!