Subtle changes in the lifestyle! 

In the year 2016, Jaya and I had taken an Alaska cruise. One day, while entering the lift (elevator), I observed that there was a mat on the lift floor with excellent little design, and Wednesday was written on the same. Then we both realised that we had lost track of time. We had boarded on a Sunday, and it was already Wednesday. They were changing the mat every day so that people did not lose track of days.

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There were so many things to do on the cruise, and there were shore excursions. We were in our own world, busy with something or sometimes just doing nothing. We used to sit in the balcony of our cabin to gaze at the sea and the waves. When we used to enter a  harbour, we could see small, lush green hills or sometimes there were tall mountains near the shore.

Recently after coming back from Canada, I got a similar feeling at home. We were with Priya, Nikhil and Rhea in Canada. After coming back, we realised that day to day schedule is not at all rushed, except when we are going for dinners and parties or movies. Jaya and I do some professional work which keeps us busy two to three days in the month!

In this month, we have to attend four marriage ceremonies which will keep us busy. Then next Monday, Jaya has the US visa dropbox appointment so that we will be going there. But in general, there are no specific must-do programs or events. A couple of times, I asked Jaya what day is it today? Then I realised that we had reached a phase in our life where there are hardly any must-do things on any day. The solution to this, I thought, was to keep track of day and date. We have a perpetual calendar at home, but it does not have the day display. I ordered one from Amazon. The calendar will help me keep track of dates and days.

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By ordering this calendar from Amazon, I made the physical and mental change that will keep track of the days too. Such need was never felt before.

I am aware that we have reached the golden phase in our lives, and need to take benefit out of the time available to us. I go to a gym, and Jaya has made a new year resolution to join the gym from 1st January. So, we will have a gym as one of our regular activities. Jaya’s second new year resolution is to restart painting. I did my Oxford online course to put me out of my comfort zone. The course was my first formal learning in writing English Literature. While in school, I learnt English from 7th grade to 11th  grade. All my engineering education was in English. The Oxford course kept my mind busy for those 2 ½ months as I was probably the only student in that class who had never taken courses in literature, before!

2020 will be the first year where our life will be timeless, similar to weightlessness in space. I have read a few things about space travel and found out that with weightlessness, many necessary activities need to be performed differently and carefully. There will be family commitments, but they will be much less if we compare to all these years, with both the children living abroad.

As the ageing process, this change in lifestyle happens subtly and not suddenly. We have now decided that get the body conditions checked regularly; the frequency will be as per doctors advice. Yesterday we were with our ENT friend for a basic checkup. I had a bit of cold too! I told him that I get dryness in the throat and have a problem swallowing dry food. He said, “Pramod, this is also part of the ageing process. Now you will realise why I have suggested yearly check-up of organs. Before you eat dry stuff, drink a sip of water to make your throat wet.”

Meeting doctors and their fraternity is going to be more frequent and essential now. These meetings were very few in younger days. Currently also, by God’s grace, these visits are not due to illness but for audit check-ups. The subtle changes are bound to take place. Your body is always sending you signals. If you get any different signal, get it checked. Delay in such checking can cause unforeseen health issues. With our age, doctors can find it challenging to handle illnesses if we ignore body signals.

I know of a family who has delayed in reaching the doctors and consequences of this delay are devastating. The changes in body conditions were not subtle but were distinct. One day the friend called me because he wanted to take an appointment with a neuro physician, I know. I organised that. They went and saw the doctor, and gave me the feedback. They were happy with the doctor.

Later, when I met my doctor friend, I asked her if things were under control with my friend’s daughter. She said, “I have started the treatment, but they have come to me five years late. The daughter who is nearing 40 now can barely walk; she has a lot of pain. She cannot climb even three-four steps. Another thing, your friend also looked unwell. So, I casually asked him how was his health. He said that his diabetes is under control.” I told the doctor that this friend is going through dialysis twice a week. His kidneys are damaged because of diabetes.” She was shocked and said that it looks like your friends family does not understand the seriousness of things in life.

I have mentioned the above episode because I am talking about subtle changes but this family ignored even strong signals. On top of this,  my friend has not accepted that he has severe health issues.

Our decision to keep regular checks of body organs makes sense. I hope all my friends in this Golden phase are doing the same regularly. Longevity has gone up. So keeping track of subtle changes in the body make sense to have a good quality of life.

We have also decided to have some time table of doing things and will try to keep our brain busy. Subtle changes in brain functions can be easily ignored by saying, “Oh, now that I am passed 70, I am bound to forget things.” That is true to some extent. But let the doctors decide the source of the signal, it may not be related to ageing. It could be that hearing is reduced; it could be that your brain functioning in certain areas is changing slowly.

So keep on doing something, give time to friends. Family always gets priority anyway. Locate some people who need company. It could be your neighbour or it could people living in older people’s home. If you spend some time with them once in a while, you will see a smile on their faces.

That reminds of the tagline of Voice of America radio station, making their broadcast from Colombo during my school days. “If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours.”

So go and buy that perpetual calendar and keep track of date and day both. I am sure you understand what I mean. Make sure that you have something to look forward to, next Thursday and Monday after that, every week. Don’t forget that every day is a Sunday in the timelessness zone of our life. It is in our hands to make the days count! It is our responsibility to ensure that we live the golden phase of our life with minimum outside support.

Our life is not a seven-day cruise. You need to find ways of keeping you busy with your mind and body activities!

“Enjoying” Education, JNU Style!

By the time I completed my education, I was 23 ½ years old (actually young)! Never in my mind, there was a thought that I should hang around in the college and keep on enjoying student life. I enjoyed my college life. I studied 11 years of school, two years of college pre-engineering, six years of engineering college, taking my Master’s degree in engineering. So totally, I studied for 19 years. The education made me employable, and I already had a job offer before my final examination for the Master’s degree. In the first year of engineering, we had 400 students who joined, but with me, for a Master’s degree, there were about 20 students.  

These days, I am reading about JNU saga. I am just trying to understand what it is all about. My fees for the Engineering course fee was princely Rs.110/; now I am told that it is Rs.10000/. Inflation changes many things, including money earning capacity too! The old problems of many parents not affording fees also remain! In advanced countries like the US and Canada, the percentage of people joining colleges after 12th grade is quite small. Majority of the students who join colleges take student loans and repay them after they get a job. Repaying student loans is a significant problem in these countries They don’t give subsidies for everything!

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The table above shows the number of students in JNU and the trend there is completely reversed. Total joining UG course is 841, PG course the number is double that number and those doing M Phil or PhD is five times the number. The trend all over the world is reverse. For higher degrees, the number of students reduces drastically. But why JNU has this different trend? Do these students want to enjoy student life and not take employment? How long subsidies should be given?

Education should be kept affordable for as many people as possible. The more educated people in a society make the society developed, and the country, in general, becomes an advanced country! But such things happen over some time, maybe a couple of generations.  

But one thing I am trying to understand, why are 3500 students doing M Phil and PhD in Social Sciences, Language Studies and International studies? How will such a large number in these subjects become employableDoes the country need such large number of PhD’s in this subject? Another trend I read was that these people finish one degree and then register for the next degree. Probably idiots like me take 19 years of education earning postgraduate degree and take up a job right away. How many years do you want to remain a student? The grants and scholarships offered for such courses keep these folks living their life without becoming “adults” or responsible citizens 

Inflation over the years is a normal phenomenon. The JNU folks are severely protesting the same. The protest to my eyes at least looks like political rally! I have been observing over some time. What is so special about JNU that as students they want special treatmentWhat great achievements have they shown? Some of the alumni have done exceedingly well in life. But that happens with many institutes. Some of the other renowned institutes have a much more significant percentage of their alumni who have done well.  

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JNU has produced alumni who have been giving support to known terrorists! They have been demanding plebiscite in KashmirThey have been supporting the Naxalite movement. Are these achievements the reason they want special treatment? Just because they are in Delhi, they want to take morcha to the parliament? I have never heard of IIM, IIT or NIT students taking morcha to the parliament to protest against the fee hike!  

It will make an excellent sense to have 3500 well-trained artisans rather than having 3500 PhD in the subject of social science. Probably the “success” of Lutyen’s gang for some period encourages people to become intellectuals. An intellectual is defined as a person possessing a highly developed intellect. But then why only social scientists are intellectuals? Why a space scientist, not an intellectual? Why a Medical Doctor, not an intellectual? Why an Engineer, not an intellectual? In many professions in life, there are people of high intellect, but only the so-called social science people are called intellectuals!  

These “intellectuals” always talk of freedom of speech. But any freedom comes with responsibility. Do they appear to be responsible personsHow the subjects or opinions which are typically considered antinational by the majority are taken up by JNU gang as the subject of national importance? 

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I know the principle that one should remain a student for life and keep on learning new techniques, methods, systems. But this should be done while you are gainfully employed and have become productive. At the age of 70, I have recently done an online course on the subject of my liking. But I paid fees for that and did not expect any subsidy or scholarship, along with whatever freebies I could get. I am showing above a photo of 45-year-old “student” from JNU! I have nothing against age but are you otherwise gainfully employed?  

I have done my master’s degree, so I am aware of how the higher education system works. Add three to four years to your PG degree, why your PhD degree should not be completed by the age of 27 or 28? Why keep on remaining a student beyond this age? When will you become productive? The superstars who have come out of JNU left JNU after their PG or PhD course and moved to foreign countries. They did shine after becoming gainfully productive, earning their own money! Not by expecting subsidies for hostels, and messor by getting the scholarship under some course or the other! At least I am not aware of any alumni doing some path-breaking work while still being a “student. 

Now I have started thinking if JNU is a laboratory to produce politicians. Every dispute, every issue is politicised and is given national importance because the protesters take the protest to the parliament, the highest institute of Indian democracy. Parliament has issues and problems to discuss and resolve, which are of national, and international importance. JNU is not even a small cog in the Indian nation.  

It is high time a serious thought is given how to depoliticise such an important institute! Importantly, it should be found out why such high numbers are doing PhD? Are these degrees useful to the nation? The money should be spent on courses which are of importance to national growth. It should not be wasted on “life long” students taking degrees which are of no real use to India’s growth story!

 

Montreal Musings-day to day living V!

Two days after we left Montreal for Pune, it started to snow in Montreal. The coincidence was that the day we reached Pune, it stopped raining. I could see the difference. We in Pune have rains ¾ months during monsoons. The rain intensity is heavy only for a couple of spells of 2/3 days during the season. Otherwise, the rain is hardly ever discussed in Pune and we can move around easily most of the time without an umbrella! But winter in Montreal is quite harsh, and temperatures are below – 0 degrees to sometime –35 degrees. The severity is quite consistent, and people are very much geared up to handle the winter.  

One thing I realised in Canada, that the time taken to get ready to go out is high. Even if you are going out casually, you have to prepare. In India, you may probably quickly change into Jeans and Tshirt. You may wear sandals instead of chappals. In Montreal first you need to check up weather report and understand if it is going to rain, or there is going to be snowfall. You also need to check up if it is going to be windy because the windchill effect is going to create more problems. We may need to wear thermal wear or layered clothing. You need to protect against rains too. Umbrella handling becomes very tricky if it is going to be windy. Then comes the hoody, the scarf, the wool cap and scarf. 

On top of that, you need to select the right jackets depending on the temperature. You also need to decide if you need to wear regular socks (sometimes two on top of each other) or woollen socks! In short, one could easily take ten to fifteen minutes to get ready to go out. Ladies, of course, should add their additional time requirement of getting ready! 

I faced one difficulty. With all this winter gear, our side vision gets restricted due to scarves and hoodies. Plus I always used to cover my nose with the scarf. Due to this covering, there used to be fogging of my glasses, which needed to be wiped regularly. But when there was no rain or strong wind (it did now snow during our stay) walking was a great pleasure. Weather was always fresh, and the pollution was almost nonexistent! I forgot to mention hand-gloves but keeping hands in the jacket pockets was good enough during our stayWe walked a couple of Km at a time, many times and it was fun.  

Another thing I observed was that people mainly wear black or darkish clothes during winter. It is natural as black colour absorbs heat rather than reflecting like the white colour. Another thing we see on the road is other than retired people most people walk very briskly. The brisk walk is because it is so cold that you want to reach your destination as early as possible. Plus brisk walk also generates heat! We living in India do not understand the importance of the Sun because we always have it. In these cold countries, sunny days in winter are infrequentWe are lucky to be living in the region where weather is temperate.  

I came to know during discussions that many senior citizens live all by themselves. They manage with some hired support and sometimes without assistance. I have seen that some larger grocery stores give you free delivery at home if you buy items worth more than $50/. I am sure that there may be some online stores who provide home delivery of many things with or without some rider! Amazon is always there!  

I also saw many shops from the chain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DollaramaIt’s beginning was in 1905, and it has become big chain with stores at more than 1000 locations. They initially started with items costing around one dollar, but now they have increased the range a bit and have things costing up to five dollars. The change allowed them to increase the range of products they can keep in the store. We don’t buy expensive items daily, and Dollarama has created a store where day to day lowcost needs are satisfied.  

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Baklavas!

I am aware that Canada is a country of immigrants. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of establishments run by Iranians/Libyans and people from the middle-east region. The strong Iranian presence was indicated by the presence of a big coffee shop at the Montreal Airport. Besides having the usual Sandwiches, Lays and Doritos, the shop had a big section selling different types of Baklava! It was like an outlet like the ones we have on Indian airports, Haldiram items.  

Now I have reached the end of my series so let me share my travel experience during the return journey. I am always amazed to see that desi crowd in a group somehow cannot show basic discipline. At the Montreal Airport, the desi crowd on the flight was about 20/25 %The line for boarding and the actual boarding process was quite smooth.

But for my next leg from Munich to Mumbai 80-85%, people were desis. I could see the difference in the behaviour of the people in the queue, unnecessary pushing and shovingDo desis feel that flight is going to go without them? Are they afraid that they may not get a place to sit? Are they worried that they may not get space to put their carry on baggage? don’t know what makes them behave chaotically.

I am sharing below a tweet sent by Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group. 

Only flights to & from India at most airports have so many wheelchairs pre-ordered. Trying to figure out why. 1) Do elderly Indians travel more than others? 2) Do we have more infirm/unfit people? 3) Are we just jugaadus who order wheelchairs to get faster access through queues!?pic.twitter.com/eyIm5O4KB1 

I feel that the third point mentioned by him is the correct analysis. Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi, Bengali, Marathi जुगाड, Punjabi and Urdu word, which has various meanings depending on the situation. Roughly translated, jugaar is a “hack”. It could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way.  

Or I feel that we Indians where ever possible, want to cut corners. Where ever possible bend the rule. For ordering a wheelchair, you don’t need a doctor’s certificate. You order it, and the attendant helps you go through all formalities till you are in your car. I can understand this if one is unwell, or one does not know a word in any foreign language. But when you are fit, you know English, and you are going for 5th time, you don’t need this support. But it is the children of these people who are equally responsible; they make them dependent on things and do not explain what needs to be done.  

My neighbour lived in the UK and wanted his mother to join him for the first time. She could speak only Gujarati. We asked her how much foreign exchange she had with her. Her son had arranged for not a single dollar. Then we gave her about the US $50/ in a different denominationand told her if some delay takes place at Heathrow, she could at least buy some biscuits and water. 

I hope in future these folks will guide their parents properly and make them confident. I have seen Goras who are 80 plus, walking all over the airport without any help. 

Now I am back in Bharat Desh, and I can see a lot of fun (stupidity?) going on in Mumbai! Let us watch and see what happens in future!  

 

  

Racism-the uncouth behaviour!

https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/conductor-asks-girl-to-get-off-train-in-new-zealand-for-abusing-indian-passenger-speaking-in-hindi-1580618-2019-08-14 

I read this disturbing news in India Today, the other day. A person of Indian origin was travelling on a train in New Zealand. He was speaking on his cell phone to someone in Hindi. A sixteen-year Caucasian girl did not like this and told him, “You go home to your country.” The incident was reported by another passenger to the lady train conductor. The lady reached that compartment. The girl was still ranting. There were arguments, but the conductor was very firm. She made the girl get down mid-way. She also said that the girl might be paying customer, but that does not give the girl a right to misbehave with other passengers. The train was held up for almost twenty minutes, but other passengers did not mind that.  

I had complex thoughts in mind. I was pleased with the approach of the conductor; at the same time, I was distraught with the behaviour of the sixteen-year. The young girl has hardly had any worldly experience, but what made her behave the way she did. In the modern world, we see a lot of immigration. People migrate for better opportunities, or for seeking political asylums. People get posted to different countries on projects for three to six years. But then I realised that there are various  “isms” in our lives since time immemorial. We have casteism; we have “colour” ism!  

The most famous incident of racism was when Mahatma Gandhi was asked to get down from the train in South Africa in 1893 from “whites only” compartment. The event made a remarkable influence on Gandhi’s thinking about racial discrimination. But it took another hundred years for apartheid to end in South Africa. The trouble with these changes is that they sometimes go to other extremes. Cricket team in South Africa must now have a certain percentage of people of colour. The result is that many white players in South Africa now retire at a young age when they see that they may never get to play for the nation and move to England to play county cricket. 

It is very similar to casteism issues in India. But all these isms are there from mythological days in Indian history. The origins of the caste system in India are shrouded, but it seems to have originated more than two thousand years ago. Under this system, which is associated with Hinduism, people were categorised by their occupations. Although originally caste depended upon a person’s work, it soon became hereditary.  

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All the points mentioned in the above slide are self-explanatory. But I was not aware of the Guild theory.  

The guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds flourished in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries and formed an essential part of the economic and social fabric in that era. 

The details of evolutions explain to us how such practices came into existence, but the natural differentiation based on various things were used by some groups of people to their advantage. Some over a period decided that a particular group of people was better than some other groups. A specific trade was thought to be superior to other groups. You had fishmongers and ironsmiths. You had traders, and you had warriors. As time passed, some of these trades started appearing sexy! A warrior was always thought to be superior to most other people. They started looking down at other people. Many things and events were not understood by people due to lack of scientific knowledge. Some people who had better intellect started the concept of God to explain mysterious things in terms of God’s wrath. You had floods, the rain God was angry with you. You had significant fires; fire God must be appeased.  

This concept of God and religion was taken over by some smart people. They learned the written scripts and became priests. Religion and Priests created Brahmins who took the position at the top of the pecking order. They chanted hymns; they had an explanation for unexplained troubles. They were considered one rung below God. Such pecking orders became caste systems and depending on their importance,  the people earned respect 

At some stage, people also started understanding that nature has an evolutionary system. Theory of Darwin, The Survival of the Fittest, began to be recognised by humanity. In some cases, the humans became physically healthy, and in other cases, they became mentally superior.  

The classic definition of Brahmanism is the complex sacrificial religion that emerged in post-Vedic India (900 bc) under the influence of the dominant priesthood (Brahmans), an early stage in the development of Hinduism. 

But any group of people who had better intellect created progeny with even more superior humans as far as intelligence was concerned. It was well explained by Darwin’s theory. Families of warriors produced even better warriors. Families in trade had better traders in the next generation. The evolution continued.  

But worst of the thinking in evolution remained based on colour. The Gods shown in pictures always had fair skin; demons had dark skin. Male Gods were cleanshaven, but the demons had big moustaches! Scientifically, the colour of the skin was explained by the areas where humans lived. Where the Sun was harsher, the more Melanin was present under the human skin. The people living in cold climate had less Melanin as the Sun was rarely harsh. So we have Goras and KalasOn top of this, the white race became meat eaters because of the weather conditions and other circumstances. The eating habits lead to the white race becoming bigger and stronger. The white people because their colour and healthy physique were looked at as a superior race. Let us not forget that the discrimination based on colour is followed everywhere. The Dilliwalas call people from Southern states in India as “Madrasis”, as people from old Madras have been traditionally dark in colour. Ratna Rajaiah, my favourite blogger, who lives in Mysore, has written a funny take on how South Indian ladies use talcum powder to look fairer, called “Ode to Talcum”!  

https://ratnarajaiahblogs.blogspot.com/search?q=let+us+talc 

Will these “isms” ever go away? I don’t think so. After a couple of hundred years after the abolition of slavery in the USA, do you think that thinking about darkskinned people changed in the Southern States of America? In northern states in India, especially in Bihar and Bengal do you think feudalism is dead? No way! You need to go 30 km from major cities, and you would know that things have hardly changed. The hierarchies will continue based on Caste, Colour, Occupation and Religious hierarchy. Mind you, some things never change.  

I will share a story with you. Jaya had led a team of engineers more than 30 years back to the USA. There was one smart engineer who was from the state of Bihar. During training class, he would have his coffee with a loud slurping soundAfter a couple of days, at the hotel, Jaya brought this out in discussion and explained to the gentleman to avoid the noise. He immediately agreed. He said, “Madam, you know that I come from Bihar and nobody ever told us about public manners. But now that you have explained, I will immediately change. For me, coming to Pune for the job itself was like coming to the US! Now in the US, for me, it is like arriving on the Moon. How much can a person change? But I will try my best!”  

But my blog cannot be an ode, but it shows the bad aspects of our beautiful world! 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you solve the problem like.. Cricket!

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How do you solve the problem like Maria? It is a lovely song from the movie “The Sound of Music.” The nurses from the seminary where Maria lived, were very much confused by young Maria, her behaviour and her persona! But still, they simply adored her! They didn’t know how to handle her. I have the same issue with good old Cricket! In my childhood, I lived very close to Mumbai’s maidans both Cross and Azad Maidan. The Brabourne stadium where the test matches were played in those days, was about two km from my home. Whenever and where ever we went to the grounds, there were teams playing cricket! Even though in those days when the kids were born, during growing up, they were inoculated! But all the kids caught the cricket bug for which no cure has been found. As I grew, I have seen that this bug has spread from Bombay and Chennai to Bangalore, Delhi then Kanpur-Ranchi, VadodaraMysore! It is just spreading without any control! 

In my childhood, there were test matches, Ranaji Trophy matches, and in Bombay Kanga league club cricket matches in Monsoon, on Sundays. One could see Umrigar, Ajit Wadekar, Ramkant Desai et al. playing on these grounds on Sundays. All cricketers were amateurs and used to have a tough time getting off to play matches when selected in Mumbai or India teams. Even in those days, Indian cricketers used to do their stint in county cricket. I remember having heard the tales from Maharashtra batsman Datta Kher about his playing in England. He would stay with his relatives in our condo when he went and arrived back from England. We used to view his cricket kit with open mouth and with awe!  

I remember having bowled to Hoshi Amroliwala in the nets on Cross Maidan. As I grew older, then we started to see new stars, of those days,  like Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Eknath Solkar. In those days there was an opening partner for Gavaskar called Ramesh Nagdev. He used to be a big hitter in the mould of Sachin Tendulkar. India lost his services as he migrated to the US at the age of around 20. Mahesh Khandwala was a fast bowler of those times; somehow, he fizzled out after initial burst.  

Cricket is like a close family member or a friend to many in India. It lives a stead life with sudden brilliance and surprises. When one thinks that there can be no more surprises in Cricket, it pops up something new. You Cricket also have a shady side of yours which disturbed many! You are called “Gentleman’s game” but sometimes you behave in an ungentlemanly manner!

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Cricket has rules and regulations; while understanding these rules, most are perplexed because of the absurdities. When the third umpire system was started on TV, the first victim was Sachin Tendulkar. (I am using the word victim) Sachin completed a run against Pakistan, and while collecting the ball, Shoib Akhtar inadvertently pushed Sachin out of the crease and removed the bails. Sachin was declared out!  

Cricket is the only game in the world in which matches used to be played without time limit. In one such test match in South Africa, England was playing with SA. The game was played over 12 days for nine days and had to be abandoned as a draw as English team had to catch a ship back home!  

For the Indian cricket team, the ‘60s and early ‘70s used to be fire fighting matches with occasional brilliance from an individual. When Gulam Guard got Sobers out caught on 29, it was time to celebrate. Chandu Borde’s 96 and 104 in Delhi against the West Indies were the peak of batsmanship. But then came a guy called Sunil Gavaskar, who changed the thinking in the Indian team and changed the way the world would look at India. Of course, there were occasional and sometimes not so occasional lows when India once got out for 42 in England in 1974. Gavaskar once played brilliant innings of 36 not out in a 60 overs one day match!  

Hey, my friend Cricket! You suddenly provide some pleasant surprises and sometimes you suddenly test the umpires. Don’t forget that these guys are human. You suddenly want them to interpret rule 19 (b) subclause iii! That too in the rush of things when a team is on the verge of winning the world cup! Umpires get confused! Have you forgotten that there are crores of Rupees or Pounds hanging the final outcome?  I am talking of prize money as well as betting money.

The biggest surprise you gave us was when India won the world cup back in 1983! Nobody in their dreams ever thought that India would win it! How many hearts were broken? How many British Pounds were lost? How do you manage to do this, my dear? Till then India winning any match itself was a celebration. India was trying their best to get eliminated and was five wickets down for 15 against Zimbabwe! Kapil played an epic inning of 175 and India won that match. In those days, this match was played in England at such a remote place that there was no TV broadcast. Hence there is no recording of this epic innings!  

You have funny rules is well known, but during 2019 the tie did create significant controversy. But in 2007 T-20 world cup final, India vs Pakistan, we had a similar issue. The match was tied. Do you remember how you settled it in those days? You asked six players from each team to bowl one ball each. Those who hit the stumps more won the match. We did not crib as we won the Cup. But is it any way to decide on a cricket match? How does this accuracy determine the final winner? But rules are rules, and the rules are known to the teams beforehand.  

2019 World Cup crossed all the limits of reason during the final. Who would have thought that the final match would tie and then the Super over would also be a tie? No point in discussing the rules but they are there! But the coincidence of double tie was most unexpected! 

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The most important thing was the way New Zealand captain Williamson showed his maturity and Grace! He never made any statement about luck. He knew at the back of his mind that they were joint winners, but on paper, they were runnerups! How do 30-year-olds become so mature? There must be something special in his genes! Luckily, the Indian team was not in place of New Zealand. In that case, there would have been riots in India, maybe a few suicides and some deaths due to a heart attack!  

The cricketing folklore is full of anecdotes, full of characters, full of excitement and full of boredom! There are only two types of people in this world. They either hate or love it. But you never ignore this strange creature called Cricket! 

I love one anecdote which I want to share with you. Gavaskar was the first Indian Cricketer to look foreigners in their eye. After the 1983 world cup victory, we won two more cups in 1984 and 1985. The cup in 1985 was won in Australia! Gavaskar was the captain of the team and was being interviewed. A foreign reporter asked him, “Mr Gavaskar, you have won three tournaments in the last three years. What do you want to say about this?” Gavaskar, in his typical way, asked him, “ Have you seen the movie Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and so on! Our victories were Fluke1, Fluke 2, Fluke 3! Thank you. Any more questions?” 

 

EV Conundrum!

 

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I am back to my favourite topic, Electric Vehicles or EV! A couple of days back there was a meeting called by NITI Ayog to discuss and decide EV policy for two-wheelers, in India. I am going to write only about the Indian scenario. My observation is that the electric four-vehicle of similar specification as the IC engine costs almost double the price. Plus per charge range of these vehicles is about 110 km. The specs are not good enough for the car to be used for out of station travel. With these limitations, it is going to be challenging to sell such vehicles. But in two-wheelers, I have observed that the price of EV’s is comparable with IC engine version. Distance travelled using two-wheelers is much less compared to four-wheelers. In India, parking two-wheelers at home is manageable compared to four-wheelers.

There are many angles to this issues. First and foremost is the fuel. With limited petroleum product reserves, there is bound to be a tough situation for the whole world if no action is taken, we will have difficulties. Add to this a new dimension; the US has threatened India to stop buying oil from Iran or else! If the US is so much worried about the whole world vis a vis Iran, then they should sell Oil to India at the same price as sold by Iran and that too in Rupees! But the US can get away with anything in diplomacy.

Petroleum product based fuels are adding to pollution is a known fact. The whole world is trying to reduce pollution by tightening the pollution norms, but apparently, there are limitations of investments to achieve the goals. Again the US has opted out of the body which is trying to track pollution world over. Again, it is the act of a bully.

All the nations are trying to reduce pollution in their cities and India is also trying its best. NITI Ayog meeting was held for the same purpose. Four-wheelers are still miles away from reaching the balance between the price targets and the cost. As four-wheelers will be expensive, their sales will not match current sales volumes at a price expected today. The second most crucial aspect in India is the challenge of charging the car batteries. Majority of the cars in India are parked in public places. Many of them are parked on roads and streets. How to provide a facility to charge batteries for such vehicles? Do we provide charging points on roads like we have parking meters? I don’t think that is a practical way of doing it. Another issue is that fast charging techniques are coming up but are still not good enough. With such limitations, NITI Ayog is trying to put pressure on the two-wheeler segment.

As already discussed, EV’s in this segment will have a comparable price, and because of lesser parking issues, charging the batteries using home electrical outlets may be possible. Charging is manageable; costs are manageable, and the number of these vehicles produced is very high. The number of two and three-wheelers manufactured in the latest financial year is 30 million plus. Total of fuel used by these vehicles is massive.  If totally converted to EVs, there can be a significant impact on pollution.

There are two groups in this segment. First and the main is the group of established manufacturers like Honda, Hero and Bajaj. They are already developing EVs. The second segment is the startups who are in the process of developing EVs. They have no hangups and are trying to support the government. But the established ones have the issue of scaling up. NITI Ayog is insisting that by 2025, majority two-wheelers manufactured should be EV’s. The Giants have a vast experience in manufacturing and can visualise or foresee the issues. Startups really don’t have manufacturing expertise and experience. They probably do not understand the meaning of manufacturing 2.5 million vehicles a month.

Now here is a complicated situation. Established manufacturers have to keep on producing IC Engine vehicles and ramp up EV production. Tremendous efforts and money will be needed. Startups may know the EV technology but do not have the wherewithal to manufacture one hundred thousand vehicles a month. Selling these numbers without the right experience is going to be very tough. What about funding? They are solely dependent on financing by VCs. Today I read an article about VCs trying to go away from electric vehicle manufacturers, in China, as there are too many variables. These startups will never get bank funding. Don’t forget that even Tesla is still a VC funded company! They are already facing production bottlenecks, and their sales are going down!

Will Lithium producers make a cartel like the petroleum cartel? It is a million dollar question. India does not have Lithium reserves, but China has done brilliantly. They have taken controlling shares in many mines across the globe. Till foreseeable future, it looks like the Lithium, and to some extent, Cobalt is going to be the key elements. Their control will be the key to success.

https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/india-lithium-ion-battery-market

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The cost of the battery pack was the US $1000/ kW-hr in 2010. In the year 2016, it came down $273. At this rate, the EV’s will become affordable over a period. By 2020 it is expected to be sub $200/. By 2026 the price is projected to be $100/. But till that time it is going to be a tricky question about change over. Those who can afford will buy the EV’s, but the mass production models will take some time to become affordable. In the countries, where parking of cars is an issue, it is difficult to predict what the solution will be.

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One pertinent point discussed by NITI Ayog was that if the pollution goes out of hand, then the courts will intervene. Once that happens then, the discussion will be between manufacturers and the courts. NITI Ayog suggested that some policy decisions need to be taken while interested parties are involved in the debate; it will enable both sides to come to an excellent resolution.

It is more of a chicken and egg situation. It is known that EVs are good for pollution management. On one side, nobody even knows which startups will even survive five years hence. Hence there is no point in putting your money on them. But the existing giants have their issues. They need to run their current business, which has its unique problems. They have to simultaneously scale down and scale up for old and new business. Hence they have shown their apprehension with the year 2025. How will they come out of this conundrum is anybody’s guess.

Are Electric buses the real solution for pollution control and to take people away from personal vehicles?

Tango- the Elections!

My friends Nandu suggested I share my views about the Indian elections with others. I am allergic to politics, though I have voted in every election since I became eligible to vote. Maybe I am allergic to politicians! I don’t know; I am confused. Democracy is a necessity of our lives like Roti, Kapda and Makan (Now the latest additions to the need are cell phone and internet!), i.e. Food, Clothing and Home! (For my non-Indian friends!)

Why did I give the title, Tango – the Elections! Meaning of Tango is a ballroom dance originating in Buenos Aires, characterised by marked rhythms and postures and abrupt pauses. In a democracy we expect the ruling and opposition parties to perform the Tango, sharing their views of how to run the country; but our politicians have gone for the last part of the definition, “abrupt pauses”. They take abrupt pauses, change directions, from gentlemanly behaviour switch to use of nonsensical use of language. The attacks this time have become personal, and it appears that there is no end to it! Bad words are used against very senior leaders, Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers. What direction are we taking? There was a verbal diatribe on a lady candidate, below the belt, literally! No pun intended!

When I was in school, India had become independent, and people were thrilled to be allowed to vote. Democracy continues very successfully. (Except for a hitch in 1975) India has adopted electronic voting ahead of all the countries in a big way. We don’t use ballot papers.

I read a story told by Chidanand Rajghatta, TOI US correspondent. He was called in a University to speak about modern election systems in India. At the end of his speech, he was asked to advise the Americans. He said (tongue in cheek), “Outsource elections to India”! There were huge claps all around!

The voting method is where all confusion starts. When parties win elections using the current process, they are ok with the technique. But when they lose the elections, the same method is declared as the vilest system. It gets challenged in the Supreme Court- they have promptly thrown out the petition. Parties catch hold of some engineers who are supporters of that party. These engineers make a big drama of how hacking is simple etc. To overcome such issues, sometime back Election Commission declared a date on which all the parties could come together and prove to EC, how hacking could be done. Not even one political party registered for the event. We make millions of financial, purchasing transactions electronically. Passport system in India is entirely electronic. In India, Visa on arrival is given electronically. But our politicians periodically challenge the electronic process, as an election stunt!

Another issue that is seen this time is the defection from parties. It is on the rise and shows that people are only interested in standing for elections and not working for the party. The usual sprinkling of cine stars is there, and a retired cricketer has also joined the fray.

Another significant change, to worse, is attacking the independent institutions. Decisions given by Election Commission received comments that it is working for the ruling party. Similarly, Supreme Court judgments were twisted to make claims that suit the arguments of the parties. Supreme Court took these people to the task, is a different issue, but such twisted statements waste the time of the Supreme Court.

One state that has galloped ahead of others in “reforms” is West Bengal. Many summers ago, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” Bengal is the land of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekanand,  Netaji Subhashchandra Bose; it is the Bhadralok (prosperous and educated people), Calcutta was India’s capital at the time of British in the initial phase. All industries started in Bengal first.

https://indiatoday.app.link/ylVjmRhPKW

The article in India Today tells us about the anarchy in Bengal. It is titled, “How to rig elections, Bengal style”! I will not go into details as the report covers what is happening today in Bengal during this election. It will suffice to say that the Election Commission acted “Suo Moto” or on its own and disallowed election campaign meetings on a day before the last day, to prevent further anarchy. The indication of such a situation was seen for many years. During the change of government last time, there were attacks and murder galore which continued all through. Shifting of Tata Nano factory to Gujarat was the clearcut signal to the powers that be! But they were too busy appeasing their electorate, and god knows who! I hope India does not start thinking like Bengal, in future!

Another first in this election is that none of the experts can predict anything. No waves are seen, no indication is seen from any patterns in voting. The voter is the ultimate God, who does not talk to anyone. As usual, the caste, religion equations are being discussed, but nobody can come to any conclusion. Most crucial conclusion every expert is saying is that an unstable government will bring chaos to India, but it appears that the opposition may not be able to form a stable government.

In large cities like Pune and Bangalore, voting % seems much lower than most other places. These two cities are cosmopolitan, and the migratory population is very high because of the easy availability of work. The community is young, and for both towns, the voting day created a long weekend. People went away on holiday. Plus transient nature did not allow people to change their voting location from their original city to the adopted city. Times of India has started a new slogan, “Let your vote travel with you”! In days of internet and computers, people should be able “to carry their vote” with them to where they are staying. Technologically it is possible, but the Election Commission needs to change its laws and people should be educated to change their thinking. This change can be connected to something straightforward and doable. For example, if you file your IT reruns from a city A, this can be shared with the Election Commission to change your place of voting. It is just a way it can be done, but it is doable.

What can be done about the criminal records of candidates? Our laws need to tighten further. Another observation is that many candidates become very rich in between two elections. Most of these people never go to the office like you and me; they are not known to have businesses, but where does the wealth come from?

I have discussed mainly systems in Indian elections. One more thing that needs to be tackled is why not hold national as well as state elections at the same time. It will save a lot of costs. Last national election cost Rs.3800/ crores i.e. US $ 0.5/ billion, in 2014! We can assume a 20% increase in five years. If both elections are held together, there will be substantial cost savings. But somehow many political parties are against this. Probably this the cost of democracy!

All said and done, warts and all, we all should be proud of the democratic process India is following. Voting this time is done in seven rounds; these many rounds are needed to manage logistics! After all, we have states like Bengal leading the nation!