Even Better India!

My previous blog was Better India! The blog got responses from people, and the subject has touched many hearts! My friend Ajit was very vocal and made strong pointsThese many comments induced me to write this blog, Even better India! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/better-india/ 

Most have agreed about self-discipline, and road discipline and rule-breaking by ordinary people. But the comments also suggested that if specific actions are taken against a group of people, we can have “Even Better India”! Who are these people? Which is this group of people who need to be controlled? Politicians, Bankers, Rogue business persons? Or all these can be defined under one group, Goondas? Maybe this is too strong a word! People working in government have great opportunities to take bribes, but let me assure you it happens in the private sector too! Let me tell you that taking bribes has been happening even in my parent’s generation! I know it because my father was a police officer and retired as a DCP! Since he was an honest officer, after retirement, he did not have enough money to buy his own home too! Our family found a different solution for them. While I was in school, at some family friend’s house, I had accidentally seen a few bundles of hundred-rupee notes! He was a government official. So how do we start to make even a better India?  

Independent India started with people who had their needs barely covered, but there was only small higher middle class and wealthy class. Our country was in a euphoric mood, and the income tax slab at the top end was 97 %! We were in a socialist mood. There was general hate about wealthy people as if they were some aliens. Wealthy Kings and Royalty were expected, but there was dislike about rich people. At 97 % income tax rate tendency to hide profits and not showing correct income started becoming a norm. My personal view is that I would have also done the same thing had I been a taxpayer in those days. Over a period, the government understood the folly of such high taxation plus need to get linked with the global systemTax % over a period became more realistic and with global links business activity in India started increasing. IT industry suddenly put many Indians in the worldwide workforce. The number of people in the middle class and higher middle class started growing.  

Now we have millionaires and billionaires in the working class. Along with this change, businesspeople started becoming superrich. Income tax compliance increased, but people still started hiding their income, the most standard method was to create a group of shell companies, thanks to the creativity of chartered accountantsSome well-known global accounting firms also started helping businesspersons by suggesting the Swiss Banks and Cayman island routes. Some super-rich became roving Casanovas and had lifestyle which created many Nonperforming assets. Homes in London, Villas in Cannes, spending summer months in St Moritz became the lifestyle of these people.  

When there were so many super-rich people, politicians could not be far behind. The nexus became stronger. The lawmakers tweaked the laws for their friends, and the quid pro quo was not far awayWhen money levels reached thousands of crores, the need for bank loans increased, with this cheating the banks also increased. Over some time, friendly managers, general managers and directors of the banks started the quid pro quo acts with the rich! You help me; I will “help” you!  

Some of the super-rich entered the political arena, along with these people some harmful elements from the society also joined the bandwagon, including those with murder charges, started becoming netas and getting elected in Vidhan sabha and Lok SabhaWe all forget that theoretically, India is a great democracy with significant rules and laws to keep check on malpractices! The income tax departments, enforcement directorates, and other authorities were around but were kept dormant under pressure by politicians. These group of officials were “told” to ignore malpractices done by certain groups of businesses. Politicians thought that they were immune to such actions.  

But in recent years, the government is trying to ensure that the vigilance departments would start doing the job actively, without any influence from interested” people. The action created Mallyas, Modis and Kotharis. People who thought that they could never be caught have become official fugitives. Government has started action against shell companies, and three lac shell companies were forced to closeThe act of closing shell companies automatically brought out the trail of black money. Government has started acting against chartered accounting firms who were “guiding” people to hide the black money trail. A chartered accounting firm in Bangalore was guiding thousands of employees to “steal” money from Income Tax. All these people were made to pay correct tax, and it was easy for the department to locate who was guiding them. The authorities acted against this particular company too! 

The nexus between all these groups is so deep in the system that it is going to take time to bring them to books. Some political families, who were middle class twenty years back now have thousands of crores with them, without any specific known source of income. How is this happening? Will the government have the guts to act against such families? I think the government has shown courage already by taking action against individuals and families 

Supreme Court is also quite proactiveThey are actively pursuing cases like Sahara, DSK, Unitech, Amrapali and many others. The court has put many big shots in jail. They have been told, arrange to return people’s money if they wanted to come out of jail. Mallya, Modi, Kothari have been shamed as they are declared fugitives! They are living the life of fugitives in other countries. The courts, even in the UK, are making it very difficult for them to get bail. These folks ran away from India before they were declared offenders, so their exit from India and entry into the UK has been legal, so extradition has become a tough and longdrawn process.  Banks have also started correcting their errors. The NPA money to the tune of four lac crores has been recovered from defaulters 

One thing is sure that the system does not like non-corrupt officials and politicians. But some non-corrupt people have shown that one can work in the present corrupt environment. When the government started giving various subsidies based on Aadhar card links, many groups and individuals were upset. Some state governments are already acting on corrupt officials, but there is a long way to go!  

Making changes is not as easy as it looks, but again it is about the culture. The world over there is significant corruption in large business deals. But usually, it does not happen on day-to-day be basis like our policemen, anti-encroachment team taking hafta (speed money)! So, it comes back to the same issues what I wrote in the blog “Better India”! If the policeman on roads, clerks in the offices, peons sitting outside the boss’s cabin stop taking haftas, things will change.  

Government action on business people, politicians, and goondas is going to help create “Even better India”! But as Ajit had also mentioned in his comments that the general public is good; no, I don’t agree! All the big guns or goons whatever you want to call them, are being chased and are being taken to task; the same non-hafta culture and culture of self-discipline must filter down to the lowest common denominator!  

Actions need to be taken right across the board and not against only some groups! Combination of these two actions is going to make “Even Better India”!

 

Evolution of Human Social Life!

We always talk of scientific evolution, industrial revolutions and progress of sciences. Evolution of human thinking about life and the way it is lived, is probably equally or more important. My thinking is based on practices followed in Hinduism. During initial thinking, a couple of thousand years back, life was divided in three parts; Obligation, Success, Pleasure. I am not talking of Ashramas as discussed in Hinduism. Later, freedom was added to the thinking. In Sanskrit, these are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. I feel that addition of freedom, was necessitated due to social changes, in parallel with changes in science and technology.   

I am trying to understand life style evolutions, going hand in hand, with scientific evolutions. I was wondering why the Moksha was not included initially as a part of human life. I think, that not many people really reached the age of freedom or Moksha.  

Dharma or Obligation was about doing the right things. This involved creating the right thinking in human mind; don’t become selfish, think about others. When we live in a society, the societal norms and etiquettes need to be followed. These have evolved over a period of time. In this phase of life, it is our duty is to learn societal norms. During this phase, humans also get married. Marriage is not only coming together of two people but it is about coming together of two families. This involves readjustment in your lives. This phase has undergone a major change. In olden days, marriages took place between bride and groom, who lived in the same vicinity and whose families were known to each other. The marriages took place at an early age. From time immemorial, there have been hierarchies in our society based on caste, creed and many other parameters. Ones station in life was decided by these parameters. Marriages also took place initially, dictated by hierarchy. King’s family did not marry a commoner. Have these things changed today? It is both yes and no! 

There is a typical Hindi word बिरादरी, which means fraternity. Marriages still take place within fraternity, caste and so on. But there is a big change; people now do marry outside fraternity, different castes, different religions, they can be from far off places, or from different countries. With more education, people tend to get married late. Our thinking is slowly adapting to these changes. This is major social evolution or even an upheaval.  

In adulthood, one gets established in life, simultaneously while establishing in a job or business, but both are equally important. This is the success phase. Over a period, in this phase, now there is a big change. As late as 50 to 70 years back, one finished education, got a job, got married, procreated and retired from the same job. A few years after retirement many simply died! Now post education, someone may start a business right away. On the other side it is no more surprising when people continue with their education till early 30’s. By the age of 30, I had a six-year-old son and had a work experience of 6 to 7 years. This changing trend has its own pluses and minuses. But system does evolve itself.  

Trends in the stable phase of human life are also changing. This is now a phase where people procreate, work, travel and have fun. This goes hand in hand with their professional work. Now we see many cases where both husband and wife work. People tend to be busy 24/7, 365 days doing various things in life. The trend of buying homes and big cars, as soon as possible, is also coming in vogue. Adding to these changes, another important aspect that has changed is, from joint family structure, we are switching over to nuclear family. Money in plenty is available but home support is diminishing. Our society is adjusting to these changes too! Crèches, home staff, drivers become your “family” for support. When people live in foreign countries, their parents go and live for months together for support; but in the end parents do come back home. Nuclear family of old parents is also becoming a norm. This recent trend is mainly because of globalization and IT industry proliferation. 

I feel that pleasure and freedom phases have merged and these phases start a little late in life because the medical revolution has increased longevity. People live much longer than before; life expectancy was 31 in 1947 in India now it is 66. This indicates that larger proportion lives much longer after retirement. By the time of retirement, major family responsibilities are over. Financial commitments are lesser and finance availability is much better. This is the time when pleasure phase is in top gear plus freedom to do things, that were not possible during busy phase. I have an argument which may be, a bit controversial. In olden days, after the productive phase, Moksha or merging of soul with cosmic soul was thought to be final phase in life. During those days, there was hardly anything else to do than to follow the path of Moksha and try to achieve nirvana. Hence the term merging of soul with cosmic soul was used. I have nothing against trying to give up so called pleasures in lieu of bhakti or following the religious practices to achieve moksha. But now moksha is an option, not like olden days when it was the only option.  

Large number people travel, follow their dreams, maybe start a new venture in this phase! This social change is happening rapidly due to advent social evolution in tandem with ease of travel, ease of knowing about far off places. There are online courses available for photography, learning new languages, gardening. There are facilities to learn details about Bhagwad Geeta and there are special religious tours arranged for senior citizens. This reminds me of a joke. A guy tells his friend that he was about to book a religious holiday package for his family with parents. When he went to ask his parents, the father said, ” Sorry son can’t make it! We have booked a holiday for Bangkok and Pattaya!” Social change, anybody?  

Moksha is liberation from cycle of birth & death. This is taught by our religions but religious thinking which is part of social fabric also undergoes changes, along with technological changes! When no other option is available we adopt to existing conditions. But current social changes in pleasure and freedom in life can be considered like migration of young people looking for better options! So, Moksha or evolution, what is your take? I will prefer Moksha in St Moritz or Gangtok anytime! Come join the new Moksha brigade!  

 

Serendipity!

The word Serendipity means the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. Some of my friends are always saying that I am infected by “Tharoorism”. Honestly, I am not, and Serendipity is a word that was first used in 1754. It is said to be one the hardest words to translate. Notion of Serendipity is common in science domain as some important discoveries in science are due to chance e.g. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin, discovery of microwave oven, “Post-It” note.

Don’t worry, I am not going into discovery mode, but I get a feeling that in today’s world of rush, rush and rush we don’t leave time for Serendipity, we don’t leave time for anything! I am not talking of the time when we are working. But besides work we do so many things in life but we seem to continue to rush through things. We take holidays, we go for brunch, we go for shopping, we just chat, we go for a stroll, we read, we play, we paint; but we have gone into a habit of rushing through everything.

We had recently gone on a holiday in Europe; with age and language issue we thought that it may be a good idea to take a conducted tour. We had two-day stay in St. Moritz in Switzerland. The tour director had offered to take our group to various peaks and the lake, but the program was quite cramped. We told her that we will go at our own leisurely pace and maybe see a few things less!

First, we took the bus and took a tour of the town at our own pace getting down where ever we wanted. We went to the famous lake and spent a couple of hours there and really had a great time. We saw many small things which were not mentioned in any of the brochures. A very tall escalator to come up to the road level from the lake, was a pleasant surprise as we never got the judgement of depth of the lake from the main road! We were looking for nature’s beauty, but this man-made structure was also a surprise to us. We took some photos and videos but most of the time just enjoyed  the beauty of the nature through our own eyes and not through the lenses. The colour changes of the mountains and lake water, due to cloud movement were simply superb.

Later, we went to a couple of peaks at the height of 3800 meters, plus. What we did there was to absorb the atmosphere, look at the beauty of snow and sunshine, drink the pure weather! We were hungry, but they did not offer food which suited our diet. The chef there said if we had some time with us, he could cook something to suit us. That was the best sandwich we had on the entire tour, Serendipity?

IMG_20170903_154745

We felt like sitting and watching this lake as long as possible, it was so beautiful!

We were in Innsbruck, Austria. The traditional dance show was the optional part of the tour. It was called Tyrolean Evening. We were informed that no photography was allowed during the show. It turned out to be an absolute boon as we could enjoy the show thoroughly, we could see and feel the energy, we could see the superb coordination of the group and we could also enjoy our wine! The way dancers energetically tapped their thighs in coordination, was simply awesome. The show was the highlight of the tour! It was a late show, we were tired but were never rushed. It was the Serendipity moment. Here is the link for the show.

https://www.tiroler-abend.com/en/tyrolean-evenings/tyrolean-evening.html

Innsbruk2Innsbruk1

 

Social media has added to our rush/rush mentality. Everybody wants to share what they are doing and seeing, on the social media. It may be Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and what have you. We have made it a rule to share such things only with close family that maybe at the end of the day! Sharing photos and videos from the locations is an absolute no no! The rush for sharing things on the media, puts your mind away from what you are doing, you feel that you are enjoying it by sharing it! But if you think seriously, except close family and friends, all others are not so keen to know what you are doing at every moment. This excited behavior has led to accidents as people have fallen from mountains, fallen from ships, fallen from trains in their attempt to “share” instantly. I had written in my blog “Touch the whale”; people go on whale sighting trips but are behind the lenses all the time instead of touching the whale which has come at a touchable distance.

When you go for shopping, occasionally you end up getting a deal which you will never get if you rush through. During brunch, keep extra time, linger on a bit, try new things, you may discover some new food stuff that you had never tried out before; if you don’t rush you may meet a long-lost friend. But rushing habit is not good for anyone as it creates stress and can affect your health.

Sorry! I must rush and take my evening sunset photographs! I don’t get enough time to write my blogs because I must rush and meet friends, just before I rush for evening bridge rubbers. Then of course there is a late evening dinner with family before going for that recently released, late night movie! I just don’t get time for anything, but I enjoy rushing everywhere! I really enjoy ! Do I?

Strange are the ways!

InternetGenie

 

 Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod today I am going to share some incidents and I want you honest answer, Ok?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to what Genie asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod, when you were in school, there used to be a  Cricket commentator called Vizy, Maharaj kumar of Vijaya Nagaram. If there were an award for most boring commentator, he would have won it hands down. You were listening to the commentary and Vizy was telling some boring story on the lines of, “In 1936, when I was in England…” he kept on talking and talking. In between 2/3 times you heard sudden crowd noise in the background. Vizy kept on talking, then his co commentator suggested, “Vizy should we update our listeners about today’s match?” He said, “Ok, I will update.” He coolly said, “In the meanwhile India has lost three wickets!” Pramod, was it not a strange way to handle the situation? Did Vizy forget that he was there to explain the match to listeners and not talk only about his nostalgia?

Pramod, this incident is a bit serious! You were chatting to a friend who had gone on a holiday to Europe, along with a group of friends! When you asked how the tour was? He said, “Fantastico!” Obviously, they had visited Italy too! Then he told you about St Moritz, Lucerne and many such lovely places. All in all, they were extremely happy with the experience! You had heard that there was a mishap on the tour. So, you asked about it. He said, “Oh! So and so died as he had a stroke and hemorrhage on the bus while we were in the middle of nowhere!”  My worry is about “Fantastico”. How can one say that tour was Fantastico when someone from the group died! Pramod, was it not a strange way to react to a sad event?

Pramod, this is even stranger issue as it was the way things were handled by a group of Professionals. A friend of yours had a massive heart attack; next day doctors declared that patient’s heart was working at 18/20%. Doctors said that even if he survived, he would be left completely bed ridden. Next strange action was that he was put on a ventilator for 3 weeks. Obviously nothing was improving. Then they took a decision to perform the bye pass surgery and convinced the family how it is essential! Next day the surgery was performed. Result. Doctors came out and said, “ Surgery is successful!” After four hours they declared, “The patient died; his body could not handle the surgery!” Pramod, is this not a very strange way of handling the situation? That too by professionals. They performed the bye pass surgery only from commercial angle!

Pramod, last one is even stranger. A person died and he was a non believer. Cremation was done without any religious stuff. Then you were told that there  will be pooja on 13th day. This was a surprise to you. When you went for pooja, you found that there was a big religious stuff planned. Thoughts about the person who died and his immediate family be damned! The reason, there was a marriage in the extended family in a couple of months. The dark shadows formed because of death were to be thwarted. Who cares about the thought process of the person who died? Pramod, can anything be stranger than this? Tell me why people behave in such a strange way?

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, you have told me so many incidents, I have to give you an explanation, incident wise.  Ok, Vizy was an old guy and in his own world. That a few wickets fell in between did not really matter. But in the case of European tour, how can the response be Fantastico?  Tour must have been terrible, post the death of a person from the group! The response should have been “Europe was good, but we had a very sad experience due the death of a friend on the tour”! In the case of the heart patient, the doctors should have advised the family that nothing more could be done. They should have allowed the patient to die peacefully! In the last incident, if people cannot honour the wishes of the dead then I don’t know what type of family are they?”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp. Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and the system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod I agree with you, but what has world come to! Is there no humanity left?”