Montreal Musings-day to day life III!

Now the writer in me has started understanding the difference in going on a planned holiday on a tour and living at a destination for a reasonable period. Taking a tour is like going for a movie and then to go back to your routine. Whereas staying at a place is like reading a long novel. Enjoy it part by part. And keep on doing it for a much longer duration.

The leaves are changing the colours but not as fast as I have seen at other locations. In Montreal maybe only the Maple leaves change the colours, others only wither as winter arrives. Hopefully, within the next few weeks, I will come to know what happens.  I said this, and I saw some lovely colours today when we went out for lunch.

Public transport is one thing that I am enjoying; I don’t get that opportunity in back home. It feels nice to say hello or good morning to the bus driver while swiping the card. The response is also always a smile. Some of us may think that it is a bit mechanical, but it is anytime better than ignoring each other. Now my French vocabulary has reached the level of Merci and Bonjour! Priya shared one experience with me, which was shocking. Once while Priya was in a bus standing, a lady struggled to climb up with a walker. The driver did not start the bus as she was struggling and must have been hoping that someone will provide her with a seat. The driver even requested people to do so. But it took a few minutes for someone to decide to offer her a seat. Jaya and I are sometimes offered with the seats, but maybe we do not look old enough.

A couple of days back there was Environmental March which 50000 people attended. On that day, Montreal city contributed in a very innovative way. The public transport for all the people was free for the whole day, to encourage people to attend the march.

One thing I observed about the weather is when it is raining intermittently, the temperature may be higher, but it feels damp and cold. Five degrees cooler with Sunshine feels warmer even in the shade.

There is one interesting service offered. In our area, there was a power outage for about four hours due to some cable related issue. The affected zone was isolated, and the power was restored. It is now four days, but the fault is yet to be rectified. But that is not the end of the story. Electricity people have made some temporary arrangement with wiring and have provided power continuously to affected people for these four days using a truck-mounted generator.

Though I see at least one beggar at most Metro Stations (but never more- which is a surprise).

The developed countries have their own different systems and facilities for the pets. I see many shops catering to pets. I see many veterinary doctor’s clinics too! Probably many couples prefer to have Pets instead of children. These shops keep different clothing available for the pets. These include wedding dresses, clothes for winter, raincoats for use during rains and so on.

Another interesting thing found here is the number of flowers and flower beds, currently. People know that the flowers are going to last only for six or seven months, every year before winter takes over. But they follow this expensive hobby!

One fascinating place to visit is the festival of lights at the Botanical Garden, near the Olympic Stadium. Inspired by the ancient Chinese tradition, this event has been enchanting people since its creation. Glittering lanterns of various shapes illuminate the Chinese Garden and the eyes of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magical spectacle. The Japanese Garden leads you along a meditative illuminated path inspired by the seasons, and the First Nations Garden features an intense multimedia experience that lets you feel the beating heart of the Cycle of Life. One interesting thing; the path in the Japanese garden is quite dark, but they have made the displays with the help of mirrors, the trees appear as if they are full of fireflies! One more speciality was the Bonsai trees. One of them was as old as 160 years.  Montreal Olympic Stadium Tower in the background of light festival.

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Even as late as 15 years many Indian food items were difficult to procure, including the raw material like dal etc. But it is a pleasant surprise that most of the things are available here in Montreal reasonably easily. One can imagine their availability in the Bay area in SFO and New Jersey!

It appears that the preparations for Durga Pooja, Garba in Navratri and Diwali are already on or are being discussed. I will feel happier when assimilation of festivals also takes place, and friends other than those of Indian Origin are invited to celebrate such festivals.

I hear of Indian people who have been living in Toronto and Montreal for more than forty years. In the initial phase of their lives, it must have been trying for them to live an Indian way of life. But with more and more people living in different parts of the world, I was not surprised to see a typical store in one of the malls selling Agarbattis! Business is the ultimate leveller in this world. I read somewhere recently, that Agarbattis worth Rs. 800/ crores were imported in India from China. When we were on the Alaska Cruise about three years back, there were at least forty different Indian food items available in the spread. These included Dal- Khichdi and Malvani Fish!

With more and more Indian professionals becoming financially more comfortable at a young age, they are going to travel more, and I won’t be surprised if Indian items become very popular like Indian Curry and Indian Restaurants in the UK! Add to this, the children of Indians born in foreign countries; so, this number is going to become very big as keeping touch with home base  has become more comfortable with video calling and internet calling.

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By the way, we went out today to eat Pani-puri and Wada-Pav! But I had Wada-pav and Thali!  The joint is started by a French guy who got himself trained in Mumbai.The Chai was served the Indian cutting way.

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The day before yesterday, I had breakfast in a restaurant serving middle eastern food, on top of that it was vegan. There was some lovely omelette, another item which was like our Sanja and a dish made out of lentils with a nice bread! I had fun.

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Another thing I saw on Montreal roads. Public charging of EV’s is now available. My little knowledge of driving cars for fifty-plus years tells me that fuel tank and the lid are on the opposite side of where the driver sits. But the Tesla I saw being charged on the road, had the charging on the same side as the driver side! Can anybody explain to me why this would be so? All other EV’s seen in Montreal followed the normal convention!

Some interesting things like Puneri Patya!

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Emergency, Emergency!

Some of you may consider this as the second part of my blog 996 or else! Possible, but it is a comment on modern working methods not restricted to any specific field.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/996-or-else/

I read an article about school teachers in the UK. With WA groups and email, parents of the children started getting in touch with them regularly and expected an instant reply from teachers.  The late response caused anger in parents and anxiety in teachers. Teachers perform many more activities other than teaching in the class. They set exam papers; they correct the answer sheets. They check essays and have some administrative work too! They have a personal life like you and me! On top of this modern communications have created such pressure in some teachers in that particular school, that some of them wanted to resign and some protested strongly to the management. A parent finds time to communicate at 10.30 pm and expects a reply immediately.

I will tell you about the procedure followed in my granddaughter Rhea’s school. They do not allow the parents to communicate with teachers at all either by meeting or by electronic communication. They have a group of administrators who are available to meet the parents. Parents can meet them, and in most cases, problems get resolved at administrator level itself. Parents can have one meeting with teachers once every term and group meeting every quarter. I was delighted to see that at the end of lower KG this year, Rhea was analysed for twenty different personality points with details. They have a WA group for parents where circulars etc. are sent. Half the parents have no time even to read these circulars.

The same thing happens in other professions. Colleagues send you an email at 6 a.m. and expect a reply asap. WA has made matters even worse! You also know whether your message is read or not. One tends to read the boss’s note right away. But is it right?

First and foremost, there is a need to create a set of WA etiquettes. Secondly, every organisation should give a rethink and decide policies based on previous experience! What did they all do when modern methods were not available? Emergencies were handled even in those days. Years back in Jaya’s office a mainframe computer was being installed. Nobody had previous experience in this field. A call came from her office at 1.30 am, and Jaya mumbled some reply on a minor issue. Next day Jaya and I talked about this while having our morning cuppa! I told her that there would be a call again tonight but let me handle it. When the call came at 2.30 am, I, said, “Please make calls at night only when the fire alarm goes off.” No calls came ever again.

But then some people want to keep and show their importance to the organisation. I know of a guy who got married in the ’80s of the last century. Before marriage, his director called him and said, “Please, don’t travel out of Pune for Honeymoon; we will sponsor your stay in a five-star hotel, in Pune.” The guy did not travel. Later in his life, I have seen people calling him to find out if the knob on a panel is to be turned clockwise or anticlockwise!

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Are things moving in the right direction? As usual, the answer is Yes and No. Every few minutes some hot shot guy is born and wants to change the world yesterday! He goes into midnight email mode. The credit for starting this trend or you may say discredit, should go to Blackberry phone. Blackberry was the first cell phone which brought professional emails on the phone smoothly. Blackberry became a status symbol! People in those days would not say, let me check the mail. They would say, “Let me check my Blackberry!”

I won’t go into details of how email usage on cell phones has become routine, but now this usage is pretty standard. There is some discussion going on about rules and regulations that need to be followed. Unless some infrastructure is created and an attempt is made, things will not change. Some companies are doing their bit, and others are not doing anything. But it is not about the organised sector, but also in the unorganised sector, the change in thinking has to take place.

I will share an anecdote from very early days of email, about limitations of the fundamental knowledge of the systems, about usage, etiquettes. In a large organisation, people would mark a cc to many people. All the emails were replied as “reply all”. The storage made available to individuals was meagre. When I was talking to a friend, he said that his capacity is full every two hours. He did not do anything, no more emails for some time! Nobody had told people how to use email, as the IT people’s knowledge was also limited.

Even today, in the corporate email setups, there is a lot of limitation about storage etc. People when in difficulty, ask for details on personal emails and then download them! Now people have enough technical prowess; systems have understood limitations and discrepancies. But it is the management team that does not form policies where even during “out of office hours time,” communication goes on. It is simple. The system can always “not allow” communication beyond certain times. People should be given “right not to reply” after office hours! Same rules should be made to be rigorously applied for WA and telephonic communications. As usual, these things need to start from the top! There is a saying in the corporate world. If the chairman of the company asks about some delay in a project, the last guy in the value chain gets threatened of losing his job!

A good beginning is already made. France has passed a law, a couple of years back, on the right to disconnect after office hours. Daimler and Volkswagen have a facility where emails sent to employees on holidays get auto-deleted so that after coming back to work employees do not face a flooded email box. Our NCP MP Supriya Sule has introduced the “Right to disconnect” bill in Loksabha. In a small way, attempts are being made to make life easier.

But what about small sectors, professional individuals in business? Doctors get a call from patients at an inconvenient time, and people are upset when they do not respond. It is ok in an emergency but what is an emergency? A good idea would be to send the doctor a message. (They do check messages as all of us do, and respond when needed. They do not return if they are in Bali on holiday) They will decide and act if they feel it is an emergency. I am also told that these same patients do not call doctors if they are getting late for an appointment.

Every work, every profession has its standard timings for doing work. Each individual fixes his/her schedule based on the requirements for personal and social activities. Availability of technology does not mean that the communications channels should be used in “the personal timing” of any individual. Do you call your grocer at 10 pm? Do we call our milk vendor at 9 pm? Yes, I know of someone who went to wine sellers’ home on a dry day!emrgency1 No, I don’t think so. Why? Because in the case of these service providers there is no emergency! Thank god!

 

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!

 

 

 

Money Matters!

Money, Money, Money is lovely song by Abba from 70’s. Money is an important thing in life but it is not everything.

Historically when life started, there was no trade as there was no ownership concept. With individual ownership concept, starting 10000 years back, barter system started. Which later got converted to money and later into currency system. With industrial revolution, wealth generation started galloping and with that the greed! Before this period, only rich people were  the royalty and their kin! This of course continues, I need not say who the modern royalty is. Latest revolution in computers and related businesses have crossed imagination in wealth generation, beyond everybody’s expectations. But the main thing is the “you and me” gang started doing well, moneywise!

How do people make money? Some are brilliant wealth creators, they develop products, processes and concepts which the whole world appreciates and buys. Some inherit money but people like you and me, make money in a very conventional way. Typical people of our generation got themselves good education, took a job, tried to get office accommodation, later bought own home. With other family responsibilities, small amount of money remained in balance which was promptly invested in Bank Deposits. This was the process of living life, straight as an arrow and most important, safety first!

But is the conventional way of living safe life and being satisfied with it, relevant in today’s times. Probably safe deposits route was perfect for socialistic thinking of 70’s and 80’s of last century, we got used to it and continued. One person in Mumbai was given Shares of Wipro in 70’s worth Rs.10000/. The person was moneyed even in those days. He promptly forgot about the shares. When he died around 2010, his family found these shares which were simply stowed away. Their value had become Rs. 280/ million! Wow, Wow and Wow! In today’s financial jargon it is called long term investment! The money was invested in the so-called Market! In modern economies an individual is now being forced to be in the “Market”. For bank fixed deposit now, interest rates are negligible hence the shift. But there is greed. People got lured from FD in banks to very high returns from time immemorial. When banks could not give good returns, how someone else will be able to give high  returns on money. No one raised such issues, at least initially.

In came Charles Ponzi in 1920 in USA. He started one such scheme and lots of  people got sucked and ruined in his schemes. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator on previous investments. As explained, excellent marketing techniques helped first group of people to be lured to such schemes. They were given exorbitant returns from the money invested by next batch of people. This cycle continued for some period and then unexpectedly for the investors, but expected by knowledgeable people, these schemes collapsed. With the schemes collapse, the people collapsed. The way Cadbury chocolate has become generic name for chocolate made by any other company, all such fraudulent schemes came to be known as Ponzi schemes.

Latest to join the bandwagon is the currency in news, I won’t call it popular, Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses cryptography to control its creation and management, rather than relying on central authorities. The presumed pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto integrated many existing ideas from the cypherpunk community when creating bitcoin. Over the course of bitcoin’s history, it has undergone rapid growth to become a significant currency both on and offline – from the mid 2010 onward, some businesses on a global scale began accepting bitcoins in addition to standard currencies.

To give you some feel, in 2010 Bitcoin was trading at 1 bitcoin = US $ 0.003. In November 2017 at its peak it was trading at 1 bitcoin = US $ 17,900/. Today, January 2018 it is trading at 1 bitcoin = US $ 11,171/, this is the  reduction in one month. Ponzi Scheme? I don’t know. Bitcoin is trying to replace global currency in the form electronic currency. But for such type of Electronic currency to succeed, all nations in this world will have to agree. Ten developed nations in the world including US, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Australia have formally accepted Bitcoin as a currency. This may get accepted over a period of time as money. All sovereign countries formally have to be accept Bitcoin. Without this acceptance I visualize a tricky scenario e.g. today you can get one Pizza in US for one bitcoin. How much will you pay for the same Pizza in UK and in Australia? Is this rate going to be based on comparative rates of current currencies? Presently, I find it difficult to understand how this will be achieved. Will I dabble in Bitcoins today? Definitely not. The currency which can get 38% devalued in such a small duration, and has yet to get approval from most of the countries in the world, is a strict no, no for me. I am sure Bitcoin or something similar may become a global currency in future but I feel that is still some time away.

What will today’s generation tell their children about money management? Take your education and learn some special skills of your own! Well, I am sure you know the market conditions, if not study them and create your wealth. Don’t waste your money on homes and cars, when you can always rent whatever you want. But try to stay away from Bitcoins of this world. It is today’s Ponzi scheme!

To you my friends one quick suggestion. Under financial advisor, put some money in market schemes which are Trigger based. Your funds are normally invested in debt funds; but when the equity market is on the Bull run, the money  will get transferred to Equity, make decent money and when Bear run starts money will be shifted back to Debt funds! Any takers from my generation?