Have humans improved?

I am not talking about technology or other advances. In the facilities and technology, we have improved. In poverty eradication, health, hygiene and medical sciences, we have improved.

Many advances reach low-income countries and people because of the different actions taken by humans. But I am talking of social aspects. Especially in the caste, racial and religious issues, though tolerances have improved, to some extent, it is difficult to predict when things will erupt.

Take the classic case of a football match between Bulgaria and England, a couple of days back. England team had a couple of players of African origin. The game was in Bulgaria, and suddenly the racial comments were being shouted by spectators. Things went out of control a couple of times in the first half, and the match was almost abandoned twice during that session. The police took control of the situation and threw out a  group of spectators. To the credit of Government of Bulgaria, their President acted swiftly, and within an hour of the match finishing, he suggested to the President of their football association to resign, and he did. World football Association will take further action on Bulgaria is the good part. But my worry is why such things suddenly erupt? Does it mean that such things are dormant and waiting for some spark to inflame the situation?

“Us and Them,” thought process world over has reduced, but bad situations erupt suddenly, and it can happen anywhere in the world. It can happen in the most advanced countries to the most backward countries. In this respect, the world has not changed.

Today I read one incident on Facebook. It is written by someone known me and not the usual “forward”! A family runs a business, and their washroom is outside their premises, in a condo. Another family staying in that condo were to start painting their condo. About half a dozen workers were expected to do the work. The gentleman approached the owner of the business and requested him for the key to their washroom for ten days. When he was asked why he wanted their washroom keys, he said, “Those people will be doing the painting for about ten days. I don’t want them to use our washroom. Since yours is a common washroom used by your employees; I need the key.” The business owner asked, “Why not let them use your washroom?” The condo owner replied, “How can I let “them” use our bathroom?” By his logic, their own bathroom was too pure to be used by “them”! Hence the request was made.

The business owner politely refused the request, and the condo owner is now furious! The incident is a classic case of caste incidents that occur in India. The event is from a very “forward” city of Pune which has led India in the social reforms during the last century. Social reformers like Karve and Phule were from Pune, and they have been pioneers in the social changes. I am worried that if the incident mentioned above can happen in Pune, what will be the situation in smaller towns, villages? What would be the situation in socially backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

The world over attempts is always made to correct historical errors. But sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and things get overcorrected. The actions of the South African government post-apartheid regimen shows the result of overcorrection. The apartheid government collapsed in early 90 s of the last century. Rules have been made to reserve the seats for people of African origin — nothing wrong in that, we do the same in India. In India, in some instances, reservations % has become as high as 76%. Whether this is right or wrong only time will tell. But there are no reservations in sports or the armed forces. But in South Africa there is a reserved quota for people of African origin in their Cricket team- I am unaware of other sports. Due to this, many good cricketers who do not fit into the quota would never get a chance to represent their country. What do they do?

They take help of Kolpak ruling. What is Kolpak ruling? The Kolpak ruling is a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements, have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. Thus any restrictions placed on their right to work (such as quotas setting maximum numbers of such foreign players in sports teams) are deemed illegal under EU law. The legal actions in Germany set a precedent for professional sports in Europe, which have had a wide-ranging effect, especially regarding English county cricket and European professional rugby.

The South African white cricketers when they do not get the opportunity to play for the nation, formally retire and move to England and make contracts with counties. The counties are waiting for such players because they are excellent cricketers. I am aware that sports are a tiny part of our lives; so decisions can be quickly taken as a minimal number of people are involved.

In the US an attempt was made by a Supreme Court ruling, referred to as busing! The ruling made it mandatory for students from an area to go to the same school, irrespective of race. The attempt by the Supreme Court helped to some extent, initially. But then white people started moving from cities to predominantly white suburbs. Those who could afford put the children in private schools. These actions of white negated the effect of busing!

The subject is vast and cannot be discussed in details in a blog. But racial prejudice is followed world over, including in India, sometimes blatantly and most of the times discreetly. I know enough Indian people who live in different countries, and they have all said such practice is followed world over, not in any particular nation. The reason for such action may differ, but the act continues, and I don’t think that it will ever stop.

Religious discriminations have political reasons, and these are going to be tough to handle. Let us hope that people all over the world change their attitudes and live in harmony. But it is a serious subject that needs to be dealt; social media does not help in such situations! But let us hope that better offices will prevail and people will live in harmony.

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Montreal musings, day to day life IV!

I had expected that day to day musings III would be my last of the musings in the series. But so many new things came up, and many of them were unexpected to me. Hence I am going ahead with this blog.  

I met one family yesterday evening in the garden where Rhea practices with her cycle and the couples son also practices. So Nikhil and Priya know the parents. We were introduced yesterday with them, and we chatted for some time. He asked me a question. He said, “Which is that small country between India and Iran, not Pakistan.” I said, “ I don’t know such a country.” Then he suddenly said, “Oh! It’s Kashmir!” I explained to him the whole situation briefly then he realised the issue. Incidentally, he is a Jewish person, and we know their views about certain people. He and his wife are both educated, but their knowledge about our part of the world is imperfect. They know about India’s progress in general as they meet a lot of smart Indians these days in Canada!  

I came to know one more information. Thanksgiving day is celebrated in the US and Canada on different days. In Canada, it will be celebrated this year on 14th October, and in the US it will be celebrated on 28th November. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United StatesIt began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.  The concept is the same as we have in India, where we celebrate Onam, Lohri, Makar Sankranti, and so on. While checking on the net why these are celebrated on different days, there was a cryptic description on one Canadian site, “We don’t have to follow the US in everything.” 

Similarly, now shops are full of items for Halloween festival. 

Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known aAllhalloween. All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.  

It begins the three-day observance of  Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  

Halloween is celebrated by attending Halloween costume parties, trick or treating by children. The children go to every home in the neighbourhood and ask the question trick or treat? They are given chocolates, cookies and such treats. 

Carving pumpkins into the jack-o’-lanterns, lighting the bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films are some of the other activities. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.  

We have similar time in Hindus what we call Pitru Paksha when we remember the dead. But in our country, it is not a celebration but is considered inauspicious. No new investments are made during those two weeks. 

We get surprising experiences once in a while. Today Jaya and I went to a famous French Bakery in the central area of Montreal. While making payments, I was told that they do not accept credit cards; they take only debit cards and cash! Luckily we had some Canadian Dollars in my wallet at that moment. It was reasonably large establishment. While on the subject of payment retired people here too, like in the US, prefer to pay by cash and not by cards. Weather conditions change a lot during a week, but Jaya and I always find it cold. The main reason being, on sunny day, temperature could be around 10 Deg C, but in the shade, we feel cold because most of the times it is windy.  

Last week Jaya and I went out for lunch in an Iranian joint. We always try different foods. While trying to explain the dishes, the owner asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “We are from India.” He straight away shifted to Hindi. He said that he had lived around Delhi for ten years. After that, he said, “Don’t worry, I will serve you excellent food which you will like.” Food was good. Then he also served us sweet Iranian Kolache!. It looked like biscuit but was stuffed with Dates and some other dry fruits. Some Iranian sweets look like Maharashtrian Diwali sweet Anarase. 

Another surprise was the restaurant was an Iranian addaBy the time we finished our food, about 15 Iranians had formed a group and were chatting and eating and having tea! In the background, TV was running an Iranian channelMy friend Veerendra told me that Canada has a large number of people from different nations, spread all over Canada, living peacefully.  

One pleasant surprise is the quality of vegetables. Priya was saying that these are generally produced in QuebecWater content in all this produce is on the higher side than what we get back in Pune. But Cauli Flower, Cabbage, Capsicum and all such vegetables are very tasty much better even than what we get in and around Delhi! Tastes of most of this stuff are much tastier than what I have generally tasted in the US! Of course, varieties are available in the US are amazing. The fad of organic food has not caught up in Canada; it seems. 

Because we are in Quebec, European culture is more prevalent. So are social norms! In our lane, neighbours are quite friendly with each other, and life, in general, appears to be less hectic! Since winters are harsh for longtime people, try to continue outside activities until the snowfall begins.   

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-10 at 19.37.18

One unique facility we saw which can be there only in rich countries. There is an area in the garden where people bring their dogs, and they can release the leash; dogs are allowed to do whatever they want except of course, poo poo! (It has to be cleaned by the owner!)

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One strange thing. I thought Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Starbucks are known by the same never all over the world. Their menus may change to suit the local pallet. But the above photo is of KFC whose Quebec name is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky). Even in France, it is known by the name KFC! Strange are the ways of this world!  Similarly, I am told that road signs in France say, “STOP” but in Quebec, they are written as “Arrêt”!

I could not resist displaying these two beauties!

Au revoir et faites attention jusqu'à notre prochaine réunion! 
Probably they say bye and take care till we meet again in France ! 

 

 

What will change/not change in the next ten years?

During the last twentyfive years, things have changed so much in the world technologically and otherwise that people find it difficult to predict what will happen in the next five or ten years! Change has happened in India and world over. It has changed many business processes. It has made life both easy and challengingThe methods of travelling may vary, but people would still want to meet face to face!  

What else will not change? Customers will keep on asking for more discount or lesser price. This aspect of the business is never going to change. People will expect better and better service from companies; BOTS may reduce human resources, but the quality of service ultimately has to be managed by humans.  

What is definitely not going to change is people and their behaviourPeople are good and evil, smart and dumb! People are generous, and they are greedy! But the fundamental nature of people will never change. The institutions like marriage may change; livein relationships may increase, but people are not going to stop giving birth to kidsThe legal status of progeny may be different, but this is like the cycles in the fashion industry.  Ten thousand years back, people lived in communes! Institution of marriage did not exist. The same may happen in the world. The % of such couples may increase in the world!  

What will happen to institutions like governments and nations? In place of globalisation, there could be policy reversal and countries will try and safeguard their interests. But will the United Nations change? No, it will not! The concept of the United Nations was started with Noble thoughts, but when it comes to self interests, especially of large and powerful nations, things will changeA classic example of such things is the sudden reversal by the US about their commitments to environmental change movement.  

Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg is one change that is likely to happen. It is about young people coming forward to take charge of the future. The classic case of young people not taking part in the referendum is Brexit. Young people in Britain took this referendum casually, and many of them did not take part in it. The end result is there for us to see. Young people not taking part in matters that may affect their future is a common thing the world over. Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg are the exceptions to the rule. I will be most happy if I am proven wrong. Greta Thunberg, all of 16 years of age, gave an emotional speech in the United Nations about the environment. She also led the Environmental march in Montreal, Canada. The movement was attended by fifty thousand people. So, there is a hope that people to whom this is going to matter will get more involved. 

Another thing that is not going to change is natural disasters. Natural disasters have been part of our life all the time. The population of the world has increased tremendouslyA classic example of natural disasters causing huge damages and deaths is the Tsunami in the year 2004. After an earthquake measuring nineplus near Indonesia, resulted in Tsunami, which hit India’s east coast. This coast is not prone to be hit by Tsunamis, but that is nature. More than one hundred thousand people were killed, and property worth the US $ 15 billions were damaged.  

Another natural disaster hit Mumbai on 26th July 2005. On that day, within twentyfour hours, it rained 944 mmthe previous record was 575 mm in twenty-four hrs in 1974 in Mumbai. In 2005 rain deluge, almost 1100 people died in Mumbai floods. There is a tendency to blame the builders, corporation, and people in general who are not bothered about environmental damage. The quantity of rain on 26th July would have caused floods in any city in the world. No cities in the world are designed to handle such deluge. 

A rain-related disaster happened in Pune recently; in four hours it rained 135 mmThe same standard blame game is on. Though part of it is correct, there is an important reason.  

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The image above (shared by my friend Prakash)  shows the old waterways in Pune. These were designed 250 years back. The waterways always have a specifically designed capacity to handle water flow. But the deluge for four hours on 25th September was too much for these waterways. All these years at least I have never heard of so much damage due to rains in Pune. I will share one example. One of the waterways passes behind the compound wall of a housing society. The waterway started overflowing, and water pressure forced the compound wall to come down like a pack of cards. There were more than 400 cars in society, mostly in the basement parking. The basement was filled with water, and all the cars were sunk. All these new buildings and societies have come up in the last 30 to 40 years. Waterways were there even during those 30 to 40 years. But fortunately, there was no deluge during that period.  These unprecedented rains were destiny and increased population added to the woes of people. The area was sparsely populated before all the houses came up to accommodate the increased population, not necessarily breaking the rules.  

The cheats and corrupts will always be there, that will never change. Their method would change, and there is a chance that the amounts involved would be massive. Frauds would be done mostly using technology and computers. One person was in charge of computer systems in a large bank. He came up with a brilliant idea. In one of the systems, the amount was always rounded off to close the transaction. The gentleman came up with a neat idea. He opened an account discreetly, for which only he had access. From each transaction, the rounded off amount would be transferred to this account. There were thousands of such transactions. At the end of a couple of years, he emptied this particular account. He had become a millionaire!  

Humans, their nature and greed, nature and its fury are some of the things that are never going to change. Society rules might change, but basic societies will never change; that is because humans are never going to change.  One thing that looks like changing is that younger people are taking responsibilities and will push the authorities for a better future.

Home Sweet home!

HomeSweetHome1

When do we really start missing home? What is home? Home is the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. In today’s world, we travel for work, holiday or to go and stay with your family, who have moved to different places from home, temporarily or permanently. We may go to see the seven wonders of the world, or we may go to travel to live in a small town or a village. We may go to a culturally advanced place, or we may go to a drab place. But after some time, we eagerly look forward to coming back home. Why does this happen?

 The thought process about home started when Deepti wrote,   after about 45 days in the US for work and holiday, that she was missing home!

Of all the places in the world, our home is the safest place in the world for us. We can do anything at home without the fear of repercussions. Our homes are our sanctuaries. We are kings and queens of our homes. We are undisputed leaders; nobody can touch us within the precincts of our homes.

We love everything about our homes; it may be a palace, or it could be a small condo. It could be a bungalow, or it could be a shanty. But this description is for others; for us, it is our kingdom.  But we should not forget one thing. The place where we live is home. Later on, with increasing prosperity, we may buy more properties, but those are not our homes. It is at this juncture things sometimes go wrong. We purchase properties for investment purpose, but we start treating them like home.

In our busy schedule during working days, we do not get time to go and visit these properties even once in a year. If the property is in another town, then it becomes even more challenging to manage. Beyond a time, as these properties become older, their valuation also does not increase the way we want it to rise, sometimes it diminishes.

But many people fall in love with such properties. I know of someone who had a property in a different town than where he lived. The property was a 40-year-old independent bungalow and had become too costly to manage because of taxes and low rent the property fetched. Someone suggested to him to dispose off the same. He had never lived there. His reply was, “Over my dead body!” It took some convincing by friends and relatives that helped him to make that decision. I asked him once about the same. His reply was, “It was my first property; it’s like the first child. How can one dispose off the same?” I did not tell that children also become old and move in life!

We should not forget that the concept of the home also changes. As we switch from studentship to professional work, we become independent of parents. We make our own home at some stage. I had written a blog on a similar subject sometime back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/16th-august-1995-to-23rd-september-2018/

In this blog, I had written about concentric circles of our lives! When we have our family and children at some stage, we have our own home! The place which you called home in your younger days becomes your parent’s home. The same concept is going to be repeated when your children grow up, settle down and have their family. That is where the concept of ancestral home comes into the picture. In previous generations, people rarely travelled out of town for work; only girls moved to their husband’s home after marriage. The same property was home for many generations. But with today’s modern technology and way of living, the concept of ancestral home will be forgotten after a few generations. The reason for this is you had an ancestral home but moved to Bombay for work. Your children moved to London, New York or Timbuktu for their career. Some come back to India, but most don’t. The ancestral homes hence stop existing as a concept.

With increased mobility, days of ancestral homes concept is waning. But the home remains home for the nuclear families that get created in different generations. Probably we could say that longevity of the idea of home is reducing and ends with the parents who “created” the home.

Every home has its memories, its stories, the happy moments and the sad moments. I remember my first “home” which was at Dhobi talao in Bombay. What memories I have! Catching an early morning bus to go to school; it was G3 at 6.15 am and meeting Pradeep! Coming home by lunch-time; memories of listening to cricket test-match commentary of tied match between Australia and West Indies are still fresh in my mind. There was a rule at home not go to the Cross Maidan to play before 4.30 pm. But we used to sneak out under the garb of completing home-work at some friend’s place. Half the time my mother had to send someone to bring me back home from the ground though we had a rule that we should be back home when it started getting dark.

Our first home in Pune after marriage was the most fun part. Jaya and I were the first ones to get married in our group. Every day, some friends would barge in for a chat, food and whatever till they were thrown out. Some friends would come prepared to cook chicken; some would urge Jaya to plan on the previous day so that they could have Sabudana (Sago) Khichadi the next day.

Home is something which is a great leveller, makes everyone a family person. That person could be a famous Surgeon or a Scientist. She could be CEO of an organisation or a Minister in a Government. But at home, these same luminaries are converted into a different person. Their personality changes and they become mothers, fathers, uncles. They may also become sisters or brothers or aunts. My friends, this is the power of “Home”! Each home has its own Ramayana and Mahabharata which others rarely see or visualise.

We have all seen how people’s personalities are very different when they come from broken homes. They have no shoulder to cry on; they have nobody to share their sorrows. The home gives shade to the family like a banyan tree against the harshness, that is life; but when that tree itself falls, people seem to get exposed to the vagaries of nature. Home is an umbrella that prevents you from sudden rains. For us, home is only next to God. When a human is in turmoil, a person goes to a church or a mandir. It gives them mental peace and solace. You had a bad day office; you lost a big opportunity in business. You accidentally bumped your car into the one ahead of you! After reaching home and sitting in your favourite window or on a pet chair, your agitation tapers off.

Home is a powerful institution created by us, let us try to preserve it and not flog it! It can absorb many shocks but remember that this shock absorber cannot be just bought from a shop and replaced when damaged!

Deepti, you must be back home already; our flight just had taken off from Frankfurt today, when yours landed there on the way back to Pune. Take care and enjoy our dear Pune again!

India Shining Silently!

Among the political upheavals, hyperbole things are changing in India, slowly but surely. There was a political slogan, India Shining,” sometime back. But India is silently shining. The surprising part is that the change is happening on the Engineering side of life. The engineering feats are not sexy like IT, where smart men and ladies market their achievements.  

I read a couple of news items today. I found them very interesting for a different reason. One of the articles was about railways, and the other was about DRDO. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-railways-piyush-goyal-premium-trains-rajdhani-shtabadi-5796304/ 

I will talk about the railways one first. When we speak of railways, we visualise historical systems, dirty platforms, and bogeys. In general, we get to remember inefficiency everywhere. But this article shares details about how a 20-year-old problem was resolved by Railway Engineering arm. The problem was about LHB coaches which were put into service; these were imported from Germany. There was a problem of coaches shaking, giving jolts while braking or at a higher speed. Railway team found a solution locally. There were about five thousand coaches involved. They replaced the Center Buffer Couplers with new design couplers. They also found that the usual braking method also caused these jolts. Hence they asked the drivers to use regenerative/dynamic braking system when speeds were above 30 Km/hr. With a combination of these two, jumping teacups and jolts have become history. There were 5000 such coaches, but with proper project management, the work on all of them was completed in two years. These stories don’t come out with fancy celebrations; these projects were done as part of routine practice. Great story to make everyone proud. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-israel-spike-anti-tank-missiles-drdo-5796306/ 

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The news above is another silent development of a highly complex military requirement of anti-tank missiles. Initially, the order was placed with Israel, who had a fierce competition with the US. This order was placed in 2014 for 351 launching systems and 8000 plus missiles worth US $ 500/ millions. Indian organisation DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) was also in the process of developing the missiles locally. After successful second stage testing at Ahmednagar, the government decided to cancel the contract with Israel and go ahead with DRDO under Make In India initiative. These weapons are highly sophisticated and use infrared technology which has been proven during testing in hightemperature regions of Rajasthan deserts. No fanfare, the sheer hard work is the key to such success stories. Again this is the story of excellent project management where DRDO will deliver all the systems by 2021 as per requirements of the army! Kudos to DRDO. 

At the end of the second world war, Japan and Germany had lost, and many of their factories and cities were destroyed. All the treaties that were signed ensured that they would not resurrect rapidly. But somehow these nations rose literally from ashes like the Phoenix bird! All this was achieved due to the dedication, will power to excel and love for the nation.  

India, as we know today, became one nation for the first time at the time of independence. With the diversity of people, religions, languages, cultures, it was like Europe or much more complicated. Getting people together itself has been the greatest achievement of the last century, though we do not realise this. India has another significant problem. Our diverse culture has been very mature and has an old history of thousands of years. So, specific thoughts and beliefs are ingrained very firmly in our minds. We take time to change. Added to this was the large population. That India has survived and prospered is a miracle by itself.  

Slowly, we have started to learn to keep the diversity at home and now work together with professional pride as a single proud nation. Reading the above stories gives great hope to me about our great nation and people.  

Silent1

The viaduct of Pune Metro!

There are many such stories which are known to us, and we have started taking things for granted. Metro railway is an institution built singlehandedly by the doyen of this technology E Sridharan. He was also instrumental in developing the Konkan railway system. The system was one of the most stringent projects to build because of the tricky mountainous terrain. What Sridharan did was a technological marvel, management marvel. All the projects handled by him were always completed on time.

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Konkan Railway Bridge on the river Panval

My classmate Shashikant Limaye was the chief engineer for bridges on the Konkan Railway project. Shown above is the bridge designed by him on the river Panval (Yes it is supposedly near my native place Panval, where I have never been!). This bridge is 80 meters high from the ground level. It is considered a significant technical achievement in the project. How do people like Sridharan achieve such things? Looking into the smallest of the details has ensured everything works like clockwork on these projects. There is an exciting story about Sridharan. As the Metro lines started becoming operational in Delhi, he would visit different sectors every day to begin his work. Where he would go was not known to anyone. As he entered the station, he would bend and check if there was dust on staircases and escalators by wiping with his hand. What was the result of this dedication? Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow are all having Metro lines or are in the process of installation. All projects have always been completed on time.  

These projects have proven that in India, we can do worldclass technical work and have excellent project management abilities. In the example of bogeys, do not forget that these bogeys were not in one place but spread all over India. The work was completed without hampering the regular services.  

We have been doing great things in Technology. ISRO has already proven that it is India’s showcase worldclass organisation. It competes and beats others from the world in quality, performance and equally importantly, costs! 

On the business side Reliance has done a fantastic job of creating world-class large business; they have proven the same again in their Jio venture too!

But somehow we are not able to go up the value chain in other areas where we can do it. I am talking about the IT industry. They started doing well in ’90 s of the last century with Y2K! They started making big money and started getting large service contracts. Such contracts led to making even more money. In 20 years, these companies became very large, and have so much money that they did not know what to do with that money. Recently they started buying back their own shares from the market. The buyback indicated that they had no plans for developing new skills and gaining expertise in more modern areas. They have still not shown the willingness to go up the value chain. They have the people, the money but lack the will! I sincerely hope that these companies invest some money, human resources, and efforts in creating world-class products! Don’t just become Billionaires; become proud owners of great products!  

 

 

 

Benefits of Social Media!

We hear a lot of minuses about social media, but like everything else, there are always pros and cons. Pluses are what good things you take from anything. I will restrict my discussion to WhatsApp and Facebook; I will add Skype and Facetime to the list too! I am talking about Indian diaspora migrating all over the world. People move for education, job, and lately, they travel to “safe” countries as fugitives too. Some travel for three to six years on different projects. Short term travel has also gone up a lot because the Indian system has now merged with the international business.

Currently, the World Cup Cricket tournament is going on in England. Many Indians have travelled from India and a large number from the US and other countries too. (We had travelled for the Cricket World Cup final in Australia in 2015) The English allrounder Moin Ali was asked his opinion about desis supporting Indian, Pakistani and Bangla Desh teams when these countries played against England. Moin has moved to England from Pakistan. He said, “Now, I have changed my opinion. I am ok if the desis settled in the UK support the countries of their origin.” Many years back, there was a discussion in England that those who have come from outside and settled there should support the English team. That would show their real affinity (patriotism?) to England.

Humans generally do what their heart tells them, in such situations. Is it right or wrong? Who are others to decide? A person who has citizenship of the new country, to me, will always stand up when “Jan Gana Mana” is played! That person will stand up for “God Save the Queen” or “The Star-spangled Banner” too, the country where the person has become a citizen! But you are born and brought up singing Jana Gana Mana; so, when the anthem starts standing up is automatic. It is a natural thing to do.

With the advent of modern technology, staying in touch with people back home is a zip. The main thing is that this technology is mass used and the device, “cell phone” is in everybody’s hand. On top of that, it is inexpensive. In public places, free wi-fi is available, which adds to the ease of usage (and of course to the cost).

People who migrated in ’60 s and ’70 s of the last century found it difficult as international telephony was expensive. Plus maybe the mindset of people who migrated in those times was different. A classmate of mine who emigrated in 1971, came to India for the first and the only time after 45 years. Another friend called his parents twice in the first 15 years, both the times at the time of the birth of his children. I am not sure how these people and their family must have felt in those times.

Another thing was phone density in those times was very poor in India. When Jaya was in the US for one year in 1980-81, we had to do a lot of coordination. She would write me a letter saying at what time she would call me. I would then go to someone’s home to receive the call. We did not have a telephone at home in those days.

Compared to today’s times, not many people migrated in those days. With so few Indians, probably people did not want to say that they were Indians. They would change the pronunciations of names and surnames. Panvalkar would become Pan Walker, Harinder became Harry and so on. Now my son is Sachin Panvalkar in the US and not Pan Walker. The mindset of people has changed. My generation was born around independence and the awe created during British Raj by the “Goras” was not completely washed away. So in other countries, the diaspora would be under the Raj influence, people’s behaviour was subdued. People would try not to openly flaunt Indianness. They were afraid to say, “Myself Deepak Joshi”! They now see many people from different countries like Japan, China and others struggling with English. With this, our people’s confidence has gone up.

Now the situation has changed so much in the next generation that people are not worried about their accent. The social media helps to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WA and FB help in getting alumni, family, friends group updates, so there is no telephonic silence like the olden days. People communicate with each other at the drop of a hat. Living in on different shores does not mean being cut off. Sometimes it so happens that due to work pressure or visa issues, it is not possible to travel home for some functions. People watch the whole thing on live-streaming using Skype. India-Pakistan Cricket match? No problem? Watch it anywhere in the world using modern technology?

How has this helped? How is this useful? Living in different parts of the world for your work does not mean that you are cut-off like the olden days. I remember the story of a person in ’90 s of the last century. He was living in the US for around ten years. For whatever reason, he could not make it back home during that phase. His parents went there to meet him a couple of times. Then his grandmother died. When his father called to inform him about death, the son simply could not accept it. He kept on saying, “ Oh! She was so hail and hearty! How could she die?” In his busy schedule and telephonic silence, he forgot that his grandmother had become eighty! For a previous couple of years, her health had deteriorated, and she had become frail. But in the son’s mind, ten years younger image of the chirpy grandmother was frozen!

Friends, our generation has reached a stage where we have the bragging rights to claim how our life was better, how we used to meet our old friends and so on. We also tend to look down on technology, may be out of phobia, fear, and because we don’t understand the same. Keep an open mind, try and adapt to new technologies. Don’t forget that the same technologies are helping us to remain very close to our families, friends.

Don’t forget that some things don’t change, ever — for example, the subtle reaction on seeing a brown person like you and me in foreign countries. But keeping in close contact with back home, being proud of Indianness helps living life more confidently. The bond created makes the second generation in foreign countries proud to say that they are Indian British or Indian Americans. They handle the subtle reaction mentioned above discretely. My grandson once told me, “Aba when we want to curse Goras discretely, a few of us start speaking in Marathi!” Next time you Skype with your grandson, add a few choice Marathi words to his vocabulary! नमस्कार! नन्तर भेटू!