Montreal Musings- day to day life II!

Since I am in Montreal for a homestay, visiting different places is more incidental than specific. I am trying to see how people, live, behave in their day to day lives is more important to me. Human beings are the same everywherewith some natural local and regional variances. To me, it is the interactions and actions that are more important.  

One very interesting facility was observed in a housing society made up of condos. They have kept an enclosed, empty plot. During nonwinter times, these plots are offered to residents for use. The plots are of twothree sizesUsers can plant vegetables, flowers, or whatever they want: the seeds and technical help is offered by a gardener available. The gardener helps and guides you as per your needs. For this period you can grow what you want and enjoy! What a novel idea! 

The buses have the swiping card system or for, onetime use, you have to put coins to get the tickets. Once a senior citizen was trying to swipe the card, it would not work. It was 2nd of the month. The driver asked the gentlemen, “Have you recharged the card yesterday on the 1st”? The gentleman had forgotten and said so. He said, “Get it done later today.” Subject over. Empathy?  

Many of you must have travelled to different nations and have seen the world. But to me travelling in a city in local transport is the best way of knowing small unique things. While travelling by Metro yesterday, we were in the compartment next to the driver. I saw guy entering the train with his bicycle. I was surprised. Nikhil told me, “Baba, it is allowed only during specific timings and only in that compartment where they had provided space for a few cycles. The cycle owner is supposed to stand near the cycle and not take a seat; even if the train is empty.”  

Yesterday, we went to visit the Botanical GardenThe garden is just next to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It was a nostalgic visit for Jaya and me. We were in Montreal in 1981 for two days. We had explicitly travelled to see the thennew Olympic stadium, which held the 1976 OlympicsIf you folks remember, that Olympic was famous for the super performance of Nadia Comaneci from RumaniaFor the first time in historyshe had scored perfect score of 10.00I felt a little sad that in certain areas the maintenance was poor!

Nadia Comaneci! Then and now!

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada!

 

It seems that Canada is way ahead of many countries in having beautiful gardens. I am sharing some photos for you. We had visited Victoria, B.C., on the west coast of Canada in 2016, as a part of Alaska Cruise. We had visited Butchart Garden then. That is the one the best Gardens, if not the best; we have ever visited. I am sharing some of the Butchart Garden photos too!  

Another observation was that in Montreal, I met many young Indian Diaspora during the Ganapati festival. I found that these people are working in different fields. One chap was working in Atlas Copco. A couple of guys were artists, not animation experts. A few were working in financeand a fellow was working othe logistics side of an engineering Company. I noted that one chap was working in Air Canada. Out of the people I met, only about 25 % were working in IT! It was a pleasant surprise for me.  

I have enjoyed the change of colour of leaves in Boston and Maine area; and also is the Seattle area. There the colour changes from green to yellowish to orange. Whereas in Canada, the Maple trees are predominant. The Maple leaf changes its colour to red; hence, the Canadian flag also has Maple leaf on it.  

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I had never bothered to check why this happens. There is a simple explanation though the science behind it is complicatedDuring summer and autumn, the leaves use Sunlight and Carbon dioxide the make their food. They also get water through roots. They create oxygen and food. The process is helped by green Chlorophyll which masks the other colours which are already present on the leaves and are seen when Chlorophyll goes away.   

Winter days are short and dry. Many plants stop making food in the fall. The chlorophyll goes away. Then we can see orange and yellow colours. These colours were in the leaves all summer, but the green covered them up. The trees survive on the food they have made during summer and autumn.  

Enough of science. When go out every day, I observe the changes in the leaves and their colours. Some become red earlier; some take more time. There are many shades of red that we can see. Not all the maple leaves become blood red, as we see in the photographs. One question always comes to my mind. Why do humans not follow the same discipline that is followed by nature? 

Another question always comes to mind about assimilation. How do “outsiders” assimilate with the culture of the country that they have adopted? According to me, this should be easy for people from India because we have different cultures in each state; we have different languages spoken in each state. Many people in North India have never seen the sea in their life, though India has long shoreline. I saw snow for the first time at the age of 35, when I had travelled to Germany in winter. But we have regions in India where there is regular snowfall in winter. But ultimately it comes to your openness, your adaptability, your will to accept change. I see people of different colour and creed, religions and languages in Canada. I am sure that those who assimilate live a comfortable life.  

Still, a month and a half more to go in Canada and I am sure I will have more tidbits later. I have read that average Montreal temperatures in October are 15 deg high to 5 deg low, sometimes even going to zero! So those are going to be different days in terms of weather. I never lived in these temperatures. About that, I will write later when I shiver through those temps!

À bientôt, jusqu'à mes prochaines friandises!

 

 

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Montreal- musing of the day to day life!

Nowadays travels have become more relaxed, comfortable and all of us try and create our bucket lists of things to do, places to visit. But one of my bucket list items is to try and understand the details and issues of living in different countries and cities. At my age now there is a zero chance that I would live in any other city than Pune. I am taking this opportunity of my longish stay in Montreal to understand the local details. Everybody writes about Niagara Falls, Golden Gate Bridge and Eiffel Tower, so I thought I will jot down my observations about day to day life in Montreal.

All over the world, basic things remain the same; human nature is the same. It is the reactions to the events, dialogues that make the difference. Human emotions and conflicts will always be there. It has nothing to do with the city, state or nation. But one interesting statistic that I read about Canada says that the crime rate compared to the US is very low, which makes life safer and the cities more livable.

It seems that there is a unique donation culture in this area. The boxes shown are to put the items people want to donate. From these boxes, the needy people can take whatever items they want and whatever quantity they want. The remaining items are taken to the shop. The shop mends the items, and these are then sold in the shop as used stuff at a very reasonable price.

Road repairs are a regular activity in any city. Depending on availability, technology is used to perform the activities. On the street where we live, major pipe repair work is going on. The first thing noticeable is how the safety of people is handled. After the digging is completed, wire mesh cages are put around the dug area. For one day, the water supply had to be stopped entirely. Two days in advance, every house was handed over a letter about the same. Small flags were put (middle photo) indicating which pipelines are to be changed and which were not to be touched. There were parking restrictions from seven to seven; proper no parking boards were prepared in advance and put everywhere. Also, bright colour markers were placed on the road to indicate the presence of safety cages.

Local transport of course changes with the city to city!  Montreal Metro and Bus service have a common pass which makes it a composite service, no big deal. But what I found interesting was that to buy that pass, I had to buy a ticket called Opus. It is valid for seven years, whether you are a citizen or a casual visitor. So next time when I visit Montreal, I only need to do the top up! Modern cities are expected to have different arrangments. But what I found interesting was the availability of cycles, electric cycles and electric scooters, like the ones used by kids. These are readily available, and like rental cars, these can be taken from a place and parked where one finishes the trip. These vehicles have marked areas with cycle stands. Using an app, these can be used by everybody.

One thing I am going to enjoy is the leaves changing colours. I have seen this change in Boston, Maine and Seattle area. Though we know why and how the colours change, each region has a different kaleidoscope of colours. The leaf above is what I found today, and the blood-red colour is marvellous! It is the famous maple leaf of Canada! I will share some more pictures later when autumn sets-in!

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Many western countries have arrangements in public areas where wheel-chair access is provided. In Montreal,  I found it on each footpath at the end of the footpath, there were slopes, which allowed easy access to wheelchairs, cycles, prams, electric scooters, and so on. On each footpath, there are poles provided to tie-up your cycles.  It is no rocket science but detailing is where these arrangements succeed! We know about the sad story in Pune when such cycles were made available, recently.

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During the third week of October, there are federal elections in Canada. I remembered our election campaigns, but here I saw only small posters of the candidates hung on the poles on roads or I saw one small sticker fixed in a bus. On further checking, I was told that the campaign is mainly done on radio shows where the candidates give speeches or have debates. It is about the thought process. I remember having read an article by one of the leaders of a very aggressive party in India. He had gone to the US for the first time with a delegation. In the article, he wrote, “How do people make protests here? How do they take out processions? I could not see a single area where stones were available for pelting.”

There are of course equivalent of Deep Mini markets available for buying day to day stuff. But these are much larger though they may not be from a chain of stores. Standard facilities like trolleys and baskets were visible facilities, but they had provided entry and exit doors with motion control sensors. Doors opened with a motion sensor so that people going out with bags or a trolley found it easy. Again no rocket science! Yesterday we wanted to buy an item which we could not locate. Their employee spent 15 minutes with us and found it; it was worth only six dollars!

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Since many people don’t use cars in Montreal, I saw many of them using a trolley. You buy your stuff, fill up your trolley, and you are on the way though there was one difficulty. In certain areas in the Metro system, escalators are not provided. One has to pick up the trolley and take it up or down! I asked my daughter how does she manage this when going with her daughter. Yesterday I helped her carry on the stairs. She said that she uses it only when her husband is with her!

I feel that modern society is one where detailing is done for the comfort of people who live in the city, these need not be fancy or elaborate. These are to create ease in our day to day chores, like buying, throwing garbage, managing road repairs! It has its humane angles where poor and needy are also looked after, and there is a system for that. I saw a young Gora beggar who looked fit, was about 30 but these things probably remain the same world over. Why this would happen in the advanced world is a surprise. Those who want to work can get a job in these cities; they have almost free medical system for all citizens. We talk about the diversity of people in India and our cities. But slowly, I see similar diversity in many so-called western countries due to migration and refugee issues. But one thing you need to do, assimilate. My daughter is in Montreal, Quebec, since three months. Here the first language is French. Her immigration advisor told her, “Doctor, you will be dealing with the local population so you must know French well. You start work after you have mastered French.” In three months she has picked it pretty well and understand at least 80% of what is spoken when she goes out. By the way, the Montreal population is about one point eight million!  One important thing, people looking at their phones on public transport is much lower about 35%!

WA & FB revisited!

For records purpose, FB started in 2004 and WA began to operate five years later in 2009. First, long-distance voice communication began in 1876 in the form of the telephone; I will not go into a dispute about who was the real inventor of the phone. Cell phones started appearing in mass scale in ’90 s of the last century. FB & WA are the apps that are used on laptops but mainly on cell phones. The rapid proliferation of Cell phones and WA in India has taken the whole world by surprise. No doubt this was aided by the development of keyboard apps in all the Indian languages. You don’t need to know English to use these two apps.

I am writing about the apps with Indian reference. A significant change that has taken place is, the short-term and long-term migration of Indians all over the globe. From my 1971 batch from COEP, almost thirty plus people have migrated. This is about 8 %, and to me this is phenomenal. Currently, the migration percentage has increased briskly; short-term migration is seen more as people go to different countries on assignments.

As both these apps are in use for the last ten to fifteen years, the etiquettes, the pattern of usage are continually evolving. WA says that they have created the app so that people can be in touch using an instant messaging system. They have definitely achieved this and more. Who uses WA and why do they use it? WA is used as a personal messenger, used in groups, by a large number of Indians. These groups are friends’ groups, family groups, formal office groups, alumni groups and so on. In individual usage what people do is their lookout. But on groups rules and etiquettes are a must. In one of the groups, I am in, “forwards” are not allowed. Before WA, forward meant centre forward in Hockey or Football. In India, the forwarding of messages on the group reached a menacing proportion. It was clearly proven in one case that by forwarding messages quickly, some people got together swiftly and cornered a person and killed him because he looked suspicious. Later on, it was found that he was a development engineer working with Google at Bangalore. A few friends were roaming around on the weekend in a rural area near Bangalore. There have been many cases of hoax messages, some vicious rumours were spread using WA forwards.

Let me assure you, not all WA is terrible. Some fantastic things have come up with WA. WA has started a language of its own. It uses short forms and emojis. I am not much of an emoji user, I know about 😊- a wry smile, 🤣- LOL or laughing out loud with tears in eyes, 👍- thumbs up,🙏- in India this is interpreted as Namaste but, in a foreign culture, it is interpreted as High Five, ✈- travelling👏- clapping. I have said about different interpretation of emojis; different interpretation can happen in two different persons too!

I hear that WA is the secret tool for lovebirds, both official as well as unofficial (secret lovers?)! Following emojis must be the language of lovebirds, but my knowledge in this subject is inadequate. 💋👄- Indicating kisses?💘- Lovestruck? 💏-?😘- flying kiss 😍- excited with passion?😡- disturbed?👩‍❤‍👩-?💔- heart-broken💓- love! In today’s digital times, it is no surprise that the language has also become digitised. NTT Docomo of Japan was the first company to start emojis on cell phones. These were created because the Japanese have a fascination for pictures.

Surprising results of WA use are many, I will share a couple with you. We have an alumni group of 1971 COEP engineering students. Some of us lived in the hostels, and our hostel block was known as C Top! (C block top floor) During some trifle discussion on the group somebody wrote a statement, “Long Live C Top”! This one statement drew such a response to the group that a lot of messages started flowing. Many became nostalgic and discussion continued on and on! You will not believe it, but this discussion went on one and a half day! That period was drenched in nostalgia! So many things were remembered, so many stunts, card games were discussed. I copied those discussions and created a pdf document for sharing with all. The document had about 20 pages! It was declared literature masterpiece. I recently read that a couple, who got newly married, had saved all their WA exchanges. Imagine the total number of messages! They were forty-nine thousand! These were copied, and maybe they want to print it as a love story! Wow, that will be a fascinating real-life love story, warts and all!  People spend about 2 to 3 hrs using these apps every day; this was one of the reasons for this review.

I am sure that the emoji exchange between lovers must be fascinating. Especially when the emojis can be interpreted differently. A person may interpret differently when happy as against interpretation when angry. Again two lovers may have a different understanding of their sets of emojis!

Facebook is another fascinating story in the digital saga. Nowadays, people look eye to eye for the first time on Facebook! Their love story starts with a meeting on FB. It is no surprise that it continues with the same fervour in later life too! The buzz word used for such a show of affection between lovers or couples is PDA- public display of affection! The couples shout early morning on anniversaries and birthdays, to show how they love their partner! They want the whole world to know about it. Oldies like me and many others are surprised with this kind of public show. But for those who have started their love story on FB, they don’t care what you feel! FB has its advantages. FB has allowed me to find many long lost friends. FB has allowed me to be in touch with my school, through alumni group. It’s a diverse group with ex-students from early ’50 s of last century to the early part of the first decade of this century. Today morning, I had a pleasant surprise! Darshan Ruikar, my son’s friend sent me a friend request out of the blue! He lives in England for the last 25 years! FB helps me to publish my blogs to a broad audience.

Both the apps when used correctly are a great addition to our tools for communicating with others. Both the apps offer free audio or video calls and even group calls. But the downside is the use of WA by political parties in India. With elections fast approaching, the parties are trying to overcome the “at a time forward to five entities” lock applied by WA. WA has already warned the parties that if parties continue the misuse, they will lock such id’s. Governments world over are also having some discomfort due to abuse by people of the group facility.

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My friend Baba Gupte on Video call on WA. Inset Jaya and me!

I will share with you the excellent usage of the apps. A coincidence is that both these incidents took place with someone in Australia. My friend Baba Gupte and I have been in touch about his holiday photos and my blogs, while he is in Australia. I thought why not call him; I video chatted with him, and we saw each other after a reasonably long time. Baba was very pleased and said, “ Pramod, perfect use of WA”!

Another incident was when I landed in Melbourne in 2015. We had gone to watch the cricket world cup final. After we landed at Melbourne airport, I read a news item on the net that Harsha Bhogale, the cricket commentator, enjoyed a Marathi play, “Katkon Trikon” in Sydney. I could not find the date reference. My old friend and actor Dr Mohan Agashe has played the lead role in the drama. So I quickly wrote to Mohan on FB messenger, “Hey Mohan are you in Australia or have you gone back? Jaya and I have just landed.” In a minute, I got a call on FB messenger. I was wondering who it could be. It was Mohan! We chatted and exchanged pleasantries, discussed cricket and the drama. He was to travel back to India that night.

How dramatically useful such apps are, pun not intended when appropriately used. I am sure as the apps, and people mature, the people will find more ways to use the apps to their advantage. We already have our weekly video calls with my son Sachin in Seattle and my Son in law Nikhil in Montreal! The apps keep people close, and for everybody, there is always something to look forward to! Maybe another long lost friend will get in touch with you; perhaps an old colleague will be found or even the old flame…. There are possibilities!

Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?

Titbits from an inter-continental dash!

Travel does many things but the experience you get, the knowledge it gives you can never be gotten in any school or on internet in such a short duration and on different subjects! We made a quick dash to the US to attend our grandson Suaysh’s graduation ceremony which took place on 18th June. We reached on Saturday, 16th June, and traveled back on 20th June. You will ask me where did I acquire so many new things? Well it was during journey and waiting at airports and of course chatting with my grandson.  

My son lives in a Seattle suburb called Sammamish, which has population of 75 K. It’s a well to do suburb. There were 600 students from my grand sons class of 2018. I went through the list, there were about 15% Indians, 20/22% Chinese. Rest was others! Out of 600, about 100 did IB Diploma. International Baccalaureate® (IB) programmes aim to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/ . Out of 100 students, 80 were Indian or Chinese!  

On the flight back home, from Seattle to Toronto, an Irish American was sitting next to me. He was accompanying his son, who had also completed his 12th grade graduation. The gentleman was civil engineer by profession. When subject of education came up for discussion, he said their family came to US about 125 years back and he was the first from their family to go to a college. He rued, that his family and clan never realized the importance of education before his generation. He was shocked to know the statistics mentioned above.  

Another important point came out in discussion. Gun laws in USA. He agreed that the laws were bad, so I asked him a hypothetical question. In the mid-size city like Seattle, in an area 25 km around, how many people will really need a gun? He said that in some remote area a few wild animals do come but if you let them be, you don’t need guns; otherwise almost nobody would need a gun. I then asked him, how many guns would be there in Seattle area? He said there could be hundreds of guns! That is the gun story in USA.  

Then I found some interesting things at airports. Removing shoes, Laptops etc at security varies from country to country, as per equipment available. We landed in Vancouver, Canada and US immigration and customs formalities were completed there itself. After the formalities were done, nobody took the customs form that we had filled up. On Seattle Toronto flight, similar customs form was filled up but passport details were not required. Nobody collected this form too! When we transited after reaching Canada, there was no security check, though we had crossed the international border! There was a very long moving walkway, maybe about 300 meters long. It was the worst one I have seen on any airport. It was continuously making noise, dhad, dhad and I got a feeling that one of the links of the conveyor would break, anytime. Also, the walkway was not moving in flat plane; it was jumping a few millimeters at every dhad. It was very uncomfortable to use.  

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The images above show the funny side of lack of quality control at some stage. We were flying Seattle to Toronto but two images were showing reverse information. Instead of showing distance to Toronto, it was showing distance to Seattle! This hardly made any difference but it was surprising to such basic errors.  

Back home in Delhi there was a pleasant surprise! We stayed at night at the Holiday Inn Express transit hotel at the airport. That day was Jaya’s birthday and I had ordered a cake when I had booked the room  a month back. When we reached, the cake was ready and they offered it on the house!

On Delhi Pune flight I had a Britisher sitting next to me. He was in education business. They send students from UK for internship to India, during summer. He said every year one or two students go back home half way, as they cannot handle India! Especially from Chennai area. He was not sure about the reason and why from this area! I got many insights about Brexit, border less travel and business issues!

After a long time we ran into baggage missing episode. I am trying various things, let’s see when we get the bags at home!

But all in all one could see that US and Canada are really up there as far developments are concerned!  But to top everything else was the reaction of our gran daughter Rhea, when we met back home! The way she squeaked, jumped, danced was a site to behold! Why do we mature? Why don’t we show reactions like the small kids do? We are losing real fun and joys of life by becoming mature!

 

 

 

Why, why, why why?

I know that every why, has no reply, but this question still comes to mind! Some years back, my grandson Suyash had come to Pune, he lives in Seattle. We were chatting in our balcony. He asked me, “Aba, why many of the buildings around us are not painted? Are these very old buildings?” Well, the buildings around us were not very old, these were definitely not dilapidated buildings! They were not more than 15 years old! For fixed assets like condos, or bungalows care has to be taken to maintain them properly. Each property has its own design, the exteriors get spoiled due to rains and heat combination. If you visit these condos from inside, the homes are generally well kept and some are really fancy. People are just not bothered how the outer walls look.  

These are mostly middle class and upper middle-class properties. The income levels are decent, these folks work in offices which are reasonably well maintained. They have their vehicles which are maintained in a reasonably good condition. Then why the apathy towards the exterior? To me this is the last mile concept. We as a society are least bothered about the last mile of everything.  

You look at the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure in general. These are always poorly maintained, at least in some areas. Every year we read the stories of corporations missing their deadlines for cleaning gutters before monsoons! Rains in India are seasonal and generally fall during a specific period. Gutters get filled with muck, leaves and what not, all through the year. In Maharashtra, end of the first week of June is the time for the rains to start. So, our friends should be ready with cleaning by end of May. It is not rocket science. But are we ready? Never. Same story is published every year. First rains in any city causes havoc! There is water logging, flooding, power outages, trees falling! The things which are in our control should be done but they are completed only 95%! Last mile concept? Or who cares concept? Why do we not challenge the authorities as a society? Simple, because we never do these things in our own lives, we are poor in implementing last mile solution.  

We strongly talk about our heritage, our history; we sing songs like मेरे देश की धरती! My great country where streets were paved with Gold, where we saw diamonds and pearls spread on road sides! I have shown above pictures of “Gold, Diamonds and Pearls” spread on our roads. In olden days when everybody lived in villages, there was no concrete, we had plain soil everywhere. Cleaning homes was very simple. You clean your home and push all the dust into adjoining soil. In those days there were no plastics, there was no biodegradable stuff! Dust to dust to Soil! But we are so proud of our heritage that we continue to follow the same practice even today.  

We clean our homes and throw things out of balconies! We water our pots in the balcony and water falls on the cleaned cars every day, as some idiots park them below the balcony. Area below the balcony is the official trash can to throw stuff, pour water indiscriminately. In fact, I come to know every day what my friends staying above us, feed their dog on that day! It can be bread or rice and of course meat once in a while. The pieces fall on my car every day. The title of the blog shows my frustration! Mind you, the condos where I live are high rise modern apartments and are very expensive.  

But money has nothing to do with this last mile concept. Forty years back we lived in an apartment where we had a watchman who lived with his family. They were financially poor. We used to give them, besides the salary, all seconds from our home. Curtains, bed sheets and sometimes food which we could not consume fully. In fact, Jaya used make additional food many times, just to give to them. I still remember their small dwelling. It was a replica of our home as all the things were handed over to them by us. (It is not the story about what we did for them in those days.) Their home used to be spic and span, well-kept and properly maintained. When once asked, the lady said when we have an example in front of us, how can we not follow it?

Just a side story! This family was of two brothers. One child of each of them has become an engineer and currently working in IT industry! It is the will to do well, excel in whatever you do, to keep your surroundings clean, it is will to be part of solution and not a part of the problem, that endures you through the tough times of the last mile. In the game of cricket, it is the ability of crossing the invisible line to score a century, that differentiates the best from the good. It is the strong will to do well, that takes you forward.  

In Mumbai, when many flyovers were built, the situation was bad. Diversion road quality was poor. Let me assure you all these things are doable. When flyovers and Metro were under construction in Delhi, the diversions created were as smooth as the original roads.  In Mumbai there are low lying areas; when it rains, the water logging is bad due to topography. But corporation has installed high capacity pumps, permanently.      

How can one like to live in shabby buildings? There a couple of reasons for this. When there is a group of people living together, there will always be someone who will bother only about money or it is possible that some of them will have financial difficulties. But both these obstacles need to be overcome and can be overcome. It is the will to do it! It is your home after all!  When we water the plants in balcony, we don’t bother if water is carrying the mud with it, on the outside walls of the balcony. Expense for painting a building from outside every 7/ 8 years is not prohibitive.

Similarly, about city infrastructure, it is your own city. We elect representatives to handle the administration. Do they treat it as their own city? Or they are interested only in plundering the resources? Are they proud of their home? I have seen these representatives providing benches for people to rest. These are stainless steel benches, very nicely made. There are bus stops which are nicely designed but do we have buses to match quality of the bus stops? Do we have the discipline in keeping the fleet running? Last mile for the bus system is maintenance of buses and cleanliness of buses. The quality is terrible. 

Friends, in the Hindi Film “Munnabhai MBBS”, the hero sees a sweeper in a hospital sweeping the floor. Hero tells him, “Sir, you are doing an excellent job and you are making all of us proud, please keep doing it”. There are tears of joy in the eyes of the sweeper! Nobody had ever told him this. But when it is our own home, our own city, is there a need to be told by someone? Every day, we bathe and comb to make ourselves presentable, every day we have someone to clean our homes from inside. But how can we forget outside? How can roads, bridges remain in poor state in our own city? Let’s all join hands make it happen! Cheers!  

 

 

Life’s Speed breakers- Reblogged!


This is a blog written by me in 2015; today for some reason I felt that its a good idea to reblog the same!

Life patterns have changed for many in my generation in a way, at least I had never expected. In our parents’ generation 58/60 was the age for retirement. In those days most people retired and quietly went into the sunset. Deaths within a few years of retirement were very common, one of the reasons could have been there was nothing to look forward to! This was true in case of males, but women somehow remained busy with household chores, helping their daughters/ daughter in laws and grandchildren.

Our generation has seen things from bullock carts to electric/hybrid cars, snail mail (भारतीय डाक सेवा) to WhatsApp and god knows what in future! Going has been generally good. In our generations people try to work as long as possible because of reasonably good health, opportunities and will! When in life things are following a normal course, one tends to forget the human fallibility. Heart attacks, cancers, dementia, and accidents always happen in other homes not in my home! So we tend to breeze through and generally are in cruise control or auto pilot mode. We tend to forget that there can be speed breakers in our lives. I am writing about how I “flew” over a speed breaker, had rough landing and managed to go into “cruise control” mode again.

 Why this blog?

In life we have to face difficulties starting from family difficulties, to financial difficulties, health difficulties and so on. I thought I should share my experience with others to let them know that these are surmountable provided we keep a positive attitude in tough situations. Of course HIS blessings are the first thing you should have!! Which of above mentioned difficulties are tough to handle, everybody will have different opinion but in my opinion the above mentioned sequence is in reducing degree of difficulties. It is always good to have financial soundness plus decent insurance coverage. This puts your mind at rest about the expenses involved.

These tough times could be overcome mainly due family support and positive attitude. (By family I mean the family, extended family and friends) Probably the saying, “Tough get going when times are tough” is very apt here. During my treatment phase I have seen a patient go down as he did not have good family support. He required hospitalization and his wife never came to meet him! She was afraid of hospitals; he never recovered. So when there is a critical event in your home, it is not only you but your whole close family goes through tough times. Even if one cog in the system is weak, handling the same can be very very difficult. I was lucky we had no weak links!!

I have chosen to give this date wise activity to explain how my family and I took quick decisions to move fast with treatment. As they say Time (and Cancer) wait for nobody!!

The Story

I was continuing with my profession and was 64 years of age, in November 2013. Though my life was not very high speed life, it was reasonably busy. I was cruising in my life with manageable health issues and my mind set was as per previously mentioned thoughts, in short I thought I was infallible.

One fine day, I woke up with a squeaky voice (in retrospect, voice quality had changed a couple of weeks before) and thought maybe some oily foods or cooler weather is causing issues. I went to my ENT friend Vijay for the check-up; he suggested usual gargling and minor medication and said “call me when you get well!” After a couple of more check-ups and medications, including steroids Vijay said some more check-ups are needed. I was guided to Dr. Sant;

1st Dec 2013

On that day there was some health issue for our new born grand-daughter Rhea; I told Jaya and Priya that I will go alone for the check-up. I almost decided to go alone but Deepti insisted that Raju will go with me! Check-up was done using Stroboscope and Dr.  Sant said, Pramod I wish my diagnosis is wrong, but I am yet to make incorrect diagnosis. “You have cancerous growth on your left vocal cord and that is the reason for change in voice”! What a speed breaker! I bumped my head on the roof, was almost thrown on the wind screen! From Dr. Sant’s office, called Jaya and discussed. Called Dr. Atul (my nephew and physician) and immediately at 8 pm we went for CAT scan to check the spread, if any. Luckily no spread! On the way, ate something; diagnosis did not prevent me from getting hungry!

3rd Dec 2013

Second meeting with Dr. Sant and he had con call with Dr. Vijay and Dr. Bokil, Onco surgeon. Plan decided. 7th Dec Excisional Biopsy by Dr. Sant at Sahyadri Hospital.

7th Dec 2013

On 6th evening got myself admitted in the hospital, again Raju was great help! He stayed with me for the night. At admission counter, clerk said please get the patient; I said I am the patient! She was surprised, maybe I looked impatient!! At night, doctors wanted to take X-Ray. I walked out of the room towards X Ray area but the helper came rushing and said I must use wheelchair! I said why; he said that was the protocol and besides that doctors will blow him out if I don’t use wheelchair! Biopsy done on 7th, looks like everything went as expected. Was back in the room with major pain in the throat. Was back home in the evening, again Raju and Deepti took us home.

10th Dec 2013

The results declared, Dr. Sant passed with flying colours, cancer was confirmed.

14th Dec 2013

After discussions with Dr. Bokil, went to Ruby Hall to finalize radiation stuff with Dr. Maiya, Radiation Oncologist. Plan fixed. Dr. Maiya had told us at the beginning of the treatment, that in cancer treatment, upto 60% cure is due to family and positivity; balance 40% consists of medicines, doctors and equipment. If one remains positive, medicines and treatment are more effective.

  • Immunotherapy intravenous weekly- total 8 doses
  • 34 radiations

20th Dec 2013

First dose of immunotherapy given in ICU (just in case) and the radiations to be started within 2/3 days. Feeding tube inserted by Dr. Bokil through the nose for later use.

23rd Dec 2013

First radiation given; same day moved to new home next to Priya for easy management of the baby and grandpa!

Fell into a routine of leaving for Ruby hall 6.20 am daily.

24th January 2014

Radiation put on hold due to cough and minor fever. General weakness felt as Steroids, Antibiotics and drugs to check blood/sugar taking its toll! Sugar level checked thrice a day. Difficulty in swallowing solid food starts. A couple of feeds of liquid diet started. Body rash in head, neck and on back but manageable. Throat pain begins and so do pain killers; followed by cough bouts especially at night. I was not hospitalised but was at home right through.

2nd February 2014

Switched over 100% to liquid formula for adults; there are two of us on liquid formula in the house, grandfather competing with grand-daughter! For me it was delta change of switching from solid diet to liquid diet but for Jaya it was a logistics nightmare. Giving me first feed at 5 am so that we could leave home for Radiation at 6.20 am. Needed eight feeds to keep me going and in the whole process I lost only about 3 kgs. (Atul said weight goes down upto 10/15 kgs sometimes) My last daily feed was at 11 pm. Logistics for this feed was 15 minutes preparation, 15 minutes for feed and 15 minutes cleaning the stuff. Eight such feeds in a day plus tablets three times a day was also a feed because I could not swallow!! Plus managing day to day chores at home!! Phew! Plus managing phone calls, visitors (we had requested all to differ visits) How Jaya managed!!

16th February

Jaya had a very strong migraine attack and had to be hospitalised. On her way to hospital she called Ashwini, who rushed. She and Priya managed last couple of days of my feeds and otherwise!

20th February

Final radiation treatment!

Family Support

During all this process Dr. Gauri our niece came and stayed with us for 5/6 days. Priya was trying her best to support even while nursing the baby. Our son Sachin came from USA and stayed for two weeks. Last three days of the treatment was logistics nightmare. Jaya collapsed due to all the stress. She had an attack of relief migraine. Jaya went to hospital and checked in like hotel check in, got herself treated for 3 days, paid her bill and came back! Who managed me during this period? Our other niece Ashwini rushed at 1 hr notice and managed with some help from Priya. Who managed Jaya, God and family!! Of course Raju and Deepti were there to support all the time. Dada and Pushpatai was there for moral support. Situ, Ashwini and Anish came so did Mai & Nilkanthrao. Jaya’s brother Nanda a great support for logistics. Nikhil & Sushil were also a great help.

Friends Support

Jayprakash took Jaya to hospital when she had migraine attack, Sanjay came and met. Sharya, Ram Prabhu, Prakash Raykar came from Mumbai to meet. Chandru, Bhave, Bhide, Dada Parulekar, Santosh, Ajit, Pakya Nirgudakar (in spite of his own issues) barged in. Vijay & Madhuri came down from Mumbai. Jaya requested, Sudip, Rufus and many others to differ visit as she was getting overwhelmed! But Ranjith had come from Australia so came in with Rufus. Saurabh dropped in from Mumbai. There were so many emails, WhatsApp messages and so forth which was a reassurance that help was just one phone call away. I may have missed some names for which I may be pardoned!!

Unknown parameters

Initially I did not even know that there will be 34 radiations, I thought just one or two radiations and it’s done. I also did not know that immunotherapy was a full day affair of intravenous drug, and potassium support. Weekly blood/urine tests were also not known to me!!I also did not know that I had to wear Spiderman type of mask during Radiations!! Prognosis was the unknown factor but Doctors started indicating that cancer of vocal cords is a non-spreadable variety and there were chances that recurrence may not happen as the spread was also minimum. Fear of the unknown, honestly it was never there!

Medical fraternity professionalism

Atul, as the physician, was as usual there to indicate what can and cannot happen. Dr Maiya, Radiation Oncologist, was very clear in his thoughts and explained to us the complete roadmap during the treatment; it was like when the real issues will start, when they will taper off, what are the precautions to be taken; he was available 24/7 which luckily was not needed.

Emergencies

Once I was required to rush for chest x ray due to persistent cough, but things turned out to be normal. Once there was an indication of kidney function issue but Atul reassured that things were under control. No other emergencies cropped up.

Recovery

Dr. Maiya had explained how recovery will happen by talking my language, in graphical form. It took exactly same path indicated by Dr. Maiya. Within ¾ days of last radiation, I could switch back to bland but solid food. My throat condition would not allow me cold, sour, hot stuff. But it felt good to eat normal food. During first week of recovery, while surfing on the net, bought two tickets for Cricket World Cup final at MCG, (in March 2015!) maybe my way of declaring to myself that I am on recovery path. Started some normal activities, small walk, office for a couple of hours a day on alternate days, and then daily office for four hours. In June I started full fledge office and in July I started with out of Pune travel for work. During this phase some weakness was felt. Later on I started to drive  myself to travel outside Pune. On the whole recovery path was normal with no hick ups. Mental challenge was more than the physical challenge.

October 2015

Except the throat infections, I now do not have any issues. Throat area was directly bombarded with Radiations, so I am sure throat infections will keep on coming at more than normal frequency for some time. Life is back to normal; once in a while I have started thinking that I am infallible!! I travelled to Australia, will be travelling end of October to meet my sons’ family in Seattle. Travel for work is normal plus the greatest benefit is we had 2/3 get together meetings with friends!! What more can one want from life! I can confidently say that I am back to cruising mode thanks to Him, thanks to family and friends!