The Other side of the coin!

In life, some are takers and some are givers. It is our choice what we want to become! I would rather be a giver!

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The other day, Jaya and I went to see an exhibition called देणे समाजाचे! The exhibition was organized by Veena Gokhale in memory of her late husband Dilip, who wanted to do such activity. This was an exhibition of various products made and services provided by organizations run for the downtrodden, by people like you and me! Maybe I used a wrong word! Most of “You and me” don’t do these things. The people who run these organizations are driven by some secret energy to help people who need help. What I observed was that more than 50% of such organizations were from Marathwada and Vidarbha region. Some have been running for around 25 years! These were formed after the horrible earthquake with epicentre at a place called Killari. Around ten thousand people died in this earthquake.

The earthquake hit the region at 3.54 am, when most were asleep, on 30th September 1993 and its intensity was 6.2. It was a major earthquake but the intensity was not so large to kill ten thousand people. The region has been known for its poverty and people lived there, at least in those times, in houses which were made by keeping stones on top of each other, with no cementing material. The earthquake shook these homes and people were crushed under the stones. A lot of people and material was rushed to that area to rehabilitate people. Though this was a commendable effort, dead don’t come back, ever. Last week I saw a picture of a woman who is now a teacher in a school in that area. She was caught under the debris as a child during the earthquake and was saved by a valiant army officer. The army officer went to look for the child and met the lady! What a reunion it must have been! These types of human stories make it worthwhile to be in this world.

Along with army officers and jawans, there have been many such volunteers who did the yeomen service to the cause. These large-hearted people took up cudgels to bring back the lives of affected people to normal! These people have given long-term commitment and devote a lot of time to continue doing this work. I have given an example of Killari but let me assure you all other people, organizations are equally committed and devoted to whatever cause they have taken up. It is not only rehabilitation of broken homes, in the long term they are all running schools, creating artisans, sometimes using technology and other times using common sense. They are helping people to stand on their feet. It was heartening to meet a student who came out of this “university’ of social work and giving back to his alma mater; he works as their Pune office, besides his regular job, and takes care of various things. I also met an engineering graduate from my alma mater COEP, who has also joined one of the organizations as an advisor! He gives about a week every month for this work!

What drives these people to take up such work as a lifetime commitment? Are they born in a different world? Are they people with a lot of money? No, I don’t think so. Each person looks at the same issue from a different angle. It is like the Elephant and five blind men. People look at issues from the lens of their own experiences in life. Some just dive in to help people, you and me sometimes donate, but in most cases we only give lip service!

Here is another angle to look at the world in a different way, it is the other side of the same coin. There are doctors, engineers, architects and many such professionals who have taken up different kind of giving it back to society. They are highly accomplished professionals and have acquired tremendous knowledge, skill sets. Should giving back to the society be done only for the benefit of the downtrodden? Should it be only for those who have nothing in life? If these highly accomplished people keep their knowledge to themselves it does not help anyone. I have seen people giving back to society in their own way. I sincerely hope that this movement also catches up. This is going to give a great satisfaction to the professionals who are helping others. This is going to help the person/organization which is taking advise from these people. In the end, with this movement, India will move forward on the world technology map and in the value chain.

A classmate of mine, Veerendra,  comes every winter to India and shares his knowledge by teaching people here about his knowledge in super computing area. Supercomputers are the name of the game in future, as new technology is coming in very fast. New technology is getting ready for day to day use. But all this needs people from their respective fields to use this technology. The people maybe from science, arts, engineering, medical fields. There are a couple of ways of doing it; one can charge fees or one can do it, Pro Bono!

For various reasons, different professionals are giving this type of service. Sathya Saibaba Institute has been a leading organization giving great service. World-renowned doctors from all over the world come there for between 2 to 4 weeks, offer their services. Mind you these are not the Indian diaspora but there are many renowned experts of different caste and creed, who take part in this program. They come here at their own cost and perform diagnostics and surgeries free of cost. This is simply because of their love and respect for Sathya Sai Baba. People are blessed to get services of the world’s professionals.

World’s best-known philanthropist, Bill Gates and his Wife Melinda have set an example to all of us. Besides donating billions of dollars for the betterment of humanity, they also use their project management expertise to ensure that whatever projects are taken up, reach a proper conclusion. Many times, it so happens that some good projects are started but many times they fail due to corruption and lack of management expertise.

Near home, Jaya has taken up sharing of information about modern technology like IOT, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality with everybody! Her theme is that general people also should know what to expect because these things are going to come anyway. Another important angle is that,  she is suggesting to professionals, that this new technology is to be developed not by computer people but by Mechanical and Civil Engineers, Architects, Artists or whoever has good subject knowledge about their field of expertise. Computers and computer people are tools and service providers. My dear friend Nayan, has been teaching English to non English speaking immigrants who arrive in the United States. He has been doing it for many many years. He was honored by the President of USA for his meritorious service!

Friends, one the best way of feeling enchanted, feeling happy is to give! Some give money, some give clothes, some give time and some share their valuable knowledge and expertise. In life, some are takers and some are givers. It is our choice what we want to become! I would rather be a giver! How this can be achieved? We need to find our own path.

16th August 1995 to 23rd September 2018!

As each sibling forms own family, parents and other siblings are moved to the outer intersecting circle!

In my blog last week, “So long farewell, we too say Goodbye!”, I had written about how I had bid goodbye to my “home”, without realizing it. Now I am thinking of the other side of the event. Obviously, I cannot ask my parents how they felt about my moving out, as they have passed long back. I never had the strength and maturity to ask them this question. Many times, it so happens that humans, in their zest to do well in life, go ahead; follow their projected trajectory. Go out for higher education, take up jobs and do well in their life. This is the evolution of human life and that is how it is expected to happen.

But in the background, a lot of things happen, which creates an atmosphere for the progress of people. In the background, in most cases, it is the parents who take efforts to help the children to achieve what they want, create the atmosphere to reach their goals, smoothly. In some cases, parents do a lot of sacrifices too! I am not talking about what the children should give back to their parents. My views are very clear on this, children don’t have to give anything back to the parents!  It is the parent’s responsibility to make their children strong to face the world!

But in my case, it never occurred to me, what my parents must have gone through when I left home. Did they feel the vacuum? What stress they must have felt? As I was the youngest of the siblings, when I left home, my parents were the only family that remained as a unit! When I left home I was immature and later on, I became too engrossed with my college. Immediately after college, I got married. Parents were never in my thoughts even though I loved them a lot, I cared for them in my own way.

I remember a couple of incidents from those times. I used to be in the engineering college at Pune and my parents lived in Bombay. I used to go to Bombay during the holidays. My mother would be waiting for me eagerly, keeping some lovely foodstuff ready for me. My father would go to the office and send his car back home for me to spin around! Petrol tank, of course, was always full! My father was a senior police officer and a very strict one. His demeanour was that of an efficient go-getter! Once during holidays, my mother was unwell and her health deteriorated quickly by midnight. My father woke me up, I had never ever seen him so worried! I told him not to worry and with the exuberance of the youth, I spoke to the hospital and drove my parents to the hospital. After about 12 hours, my mother’s health dramatically improved. I could see the palpable relief on my father’s face. Had I not been with them at that time, I am sure my father would have easily managed everything. But I also felt that my father was relieved because I was around. It was probably emotional support that they were looking for. I went back to Pune later, forgot everything and was back in my own world! How many such incidents may have happened during those times, in my absence, is the question that comes to mind?

16th August 1995 is the date on which our son went to the USA for his further education. I remember this date for obvious reasons but there was an incident that happened on our way to Bombay. As we were reaching Bombay, something hit our car below the engine area. The car engine started making a bit of noise so I had to stop the car. We found out that a big stone had hit bracket on which the engine is mounted. Such stones are left on the roads by truck drivers when they stop their vehicles on the road for some repairs. There was no expressway during those times. We somehow were able to reach a garage which was nearby. I called a cab and reached Bombay. We had kept enough margin to reach the airport on time. Next day the family went back to Pune. I got the car repaired and the day after I took the car back to Pune.

For the next few days or months, I am not really sure, we felt the emptiness but our daughter was with us. Three of us always missed him but then the reality struck that he will be away at least for a couple of years. Slowly, we continued with our life. Two years became five; he had come back to get married in between. Then five years became ten; he moved from the east coast to west coast and this year it is 23 years since he left “home”. Of course, now he has his home, he has his own family. In between, he kept on coming back and we also went to him as and when it was possible. But the visits, both to the US and India were as visitors. Luckily, Jaya and I were quite busy in that phase so was our daughter. In the initial phase, when the social media was evolving, we used to talk on phone depending on how busy all of us were. Cell phones were in the evolution phase so we had to rely more on the landline.

During these 23 years, there was only one major health issue in the year 2013. I needed to be treated for cancer. Our son could come for a couple of weeks. I could see the unease on his face when he went back. But I look at the whole thing from a different angle. Had he been staying in Bangalore or Delhi or Timbaktu, the situation would have been the same. Once children get busy in their career and their families, the natural progression is that they get busy in their own stuff. I had mentioned in one of the blogs about intersecting circles.

Circles

Circles1The images explain this concept clearly. In the first image, the Innermost circle is the core family circle which has parents and siblings. As each sibling forms own family, parents and other siblings are moved to the outer intersecting circle. That is how the world moves, that is the name of the game, that is nature!  The second image of intersecting circles shows the complexity that can form later in life, due to the formation of new families. As the generations change, you go into a circle on the periphery.

What is the significance of the date 23rd September 2018! Our grandson completed his 12th grade and joined a University for Computer Engineering course. He moved to the dormitory! What thoughts have been going on in my son and his wife’s mind? I do not know. I am sure the thoughts will be the same as what we had. This is one training that I do not think we gave to our son. But this is very essential like all other training. This aspect of life is never taught in any course, in any college. It is learnt in the life’s school!

But there is one more angle to this scenario that we see these days. I know of a family where the mother is 90 plus and has a very serious case of dementia. Hers is an extremely difficult case to manage, and she is being nursed at home with the help of supporting staff. Her eldest son and his wife look after her. Her other younger son lives in a different country. He is also retired but they come and support the mother for a couple of months. Is it incidental? Winter is very harsh in those months in that country. Who should share such responsibilities? This is a very tricky situation and handling it is not easy. We also hear some stories about children inviting parents to their homes only when they need babysitting or some such support.

Honestly, I really do not know what the correct approach is; but to me, each one is a different case. Most of the times we hear only one sided version. It is difficult to come to any conclusion. I have heard of a story about travel by my friend. I don’t know what adjective to give to this story. Whether it is funny or horror story or a practical thing to do. They have two children staying in the US. I found that they were traveling separately on different days. The reason was two children wanted the best “monitory deal” for ticket. Does it matter that they had to travel separately? Such problems maybe faced if the parents are financially not independent!

Before India’s independence in 1947, most people hardly left their area of birth for green pastures. But with progress all around things have changed a lot. There is good Hindi word called बिरादरी; people still marry in बिरादरी! But with progress they live all over the world. Material progress and progress in our thought process need to go hand in hand. Once that is achieved, it hardly matters. To me the circles below are the true representations of today’s times. Or is it the first first image? I am confused!

Circles3

Lazy or Innovative!

The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications!

 

TwoThumbsTyping

Humans always want to do things differently and easily. We say that fashions come back in circles every 30 years! But pictorial writing took a few thousand years to come back! Are humans lazy or innovative? From pre-historical days, we’ve learned to talk, we’ve learned to write, but we’re only now learning to write at the speed of talking (i.e., text), sending messages. If you are talking to someone face-to-face, you don’t need an additional word or symbol to express “I’m smiling” because you would be smiling. Research determined way back in the 1950s that only 7 per cent of communication is verbal (what we say), while 38 per cent is vocal (how we say it) and 55 per cent is nonverbal (what we do and how we look while we’re saying it). This is good for face-to-face communication, but when we’re texting/WApping, the hypothesis goes for a toss. 93 per cent of our communicative tools are out of the picture.

In came Emojis! Emojis were born from the mind of a single man: Shigetaka Kurita, an employee at the Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo. Back in the late 1990s, the company was looking for a way to distinguish its pager service from its competitors in a very tight market. Kurita hit on the idea of adding simplistic cartoon images to its messaging functions as a way to appeal to teens. The emoji means, “picture words”—were designed by Kurita, using a pencil and paper, and were inspired by pictorial Japanese sources, like Manga (Japanese comic books) and Kanji ­(Japanese characters borrowed from written Chinese). I always had this feeling that Emojis show a feel of Japanese/Chinese characters and now I have come to know that I was not wrong.

These 176, initial crude symbols became very popular and Japanese Telecom adopted them. These were used only in Japan.  Apple put these characters in iPhone in 2007 for phones to be sold in Japan; it was meant for Japanese youth and was hidden deep down in software layers. But tech-savvy users in the US found these Emojis and then it was only a question of high-speed proliferation. Now even people above 80 are using WhatsApp and use Emojis very comfortably. In a survey in 2013, it was found that 73% of people in the USA and 82% of people in China were using Emojis in their communications. There is one interesting thing I have observed about Emojis. Since the faces shown in them are basically based on comic books, there is hardly any angry Emoji! Using Emojis, people can love, feel sad, feel elated but it becomes difficult to hate or feel angry using Emojis!

The meaning of Emojis interpreted in different areas of the world are flexible and that is the real beauty of it. 🙏🙏 is an Emoji that is interpreted as Namaskar (Hindu Greeting) in our part of the world. But in the western world, it is interpreted as High Five! If one needs to discuss or comment on something serious, the best solution is face to face talk, next best is Emojis and third place goes to the written text. These not very professional looking cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux, they keep on changing. The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications, especially when it’s sent using tiny screens, tapped out in real time.

airport-signs-11109624

The beginning of writing started with pictorial drawing and their interpretation. First written symbols that began in our lives are pictures. Pictograms—i.e. pictures of actual things, like a drawing of the sun—were the very first elements of written communication, found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. From pictograms, which are literal representations, we moved to logograms, which are symbols that stand in for a word ($, for example) and ideograms, which are pictures or symbols that represent an idea or abstract concept. Modern examples of ideograms include the person-in-a-wheelchair symbol that universally communicates accessibility and the red-hand symbol at a pedestrian crossing that signals not “red hand” but “stops.”

One thing is sure that pictures, emojis have a definite advantage over written communication. I will tell you how I got confused in Germany, way back in 1984. I had gone to West Germany of those times. I was travelling back to the place of my stay in a small town called Menden, using the train system. I was required to change the trains at a couple of places. I saw one railway employee with a tag, “Information”. I was happy, finally, I found someone speaking English!  I went to the railway employee to seek the directions. Later I came to know that Information in German is pronounced as, Informatsionen! The person said, “Ich spreche kein Englisch”, which I assumed as “I don’t speak English” He held my hand, took me to the correct platform and pointed to me the direction! No Emojis!

 JoyEmoji

The Joy Emoji shown above, is referred  to as “Face With Tears of Joy” or “the LOL Emoji” (Emojis don’t have official names, just nicknames created by their users)— it dates back, in North America, to roughly 2011, when Apple put a readily accessible Emoji keyboard in iOS 5 for the iPhone. Which means that in a few years, Face With Tears of Joy ­vanquished the 3,000-year-old symbol “~” called Tilde, which is at the top left-hand corner of our keyboard. Tilde is used as a symbol for approximation. Let me tell you briefly about ~! It was one of the most common symbols used in written language for a long time but was overtaken by LOL in three years! That is the power of Emojis!

Then comes the issue, are Emojis the right way to communicate? I think so because when we communicate with each other on social media, it is more of an informal discussion. In our lives now social media communications are very large in volume. Formal work or business related communication is still a letter or an email! You may send an informal consent for a purchase order on WA, but will end with, “Purchase Order follows”.  Of course, there are personal feuds or lover’s tiffs that can happen on WhatsApp. Now I have passed that stage but had WA been available in my younger days, I would rather have used  Emojis. If I had to show my displeasure, I would have used 😕☹😒 instead of saying, “I am unhappy or sad because you said blah blah on phone!” This one sentence would lead to so much more exchange, of initially tough words, and maybe then harsh words. 🙂🙂

Spelling mistakes or deliberate spelling errors are part of communication. ध चा मा is a famous historical saying in Maratha history during the time of Peshwas. There was an order to धरा someone, means capture someone. ध चा मा means the letter ध was replaced by मा . The order became मारा, someone, means kill someone! Don’t be under the misconception that such errors can’t happen while replying using Emoji. The following Emojis are next to each other on the keyboard, 👏👄.  A young man wanted to appreciate what his female boss had achieved. By mistake, he sent 👄 EMoji instead of 👏. This was before, “delete message” facility in WhatsApp. Sheepishly he went to the boss to apologize. His boss said, “Meet me in the evening!” The office was almost empty when he went to her cabin. He was shocked when his boss replied to him with,😘😘 in person! Boss is always right!

Downsize!

During the downsizing phase, try to learn new things

The word downsize is used while discussing a company or a business or economy. This generally happens because of the economic downturn. Things can get “upsized” if companies are properly downsized when needed. Downsize means you reduce the workforce, you stop doing the less productive activity. I had heard about this term being applied to our life too, in the USA. Post-retirement when you get older, you downsize. It meant that if you had a bungalow, sell it off and move to an apartment or a condo. Managing many things beyond a certain age becomes tricky and sometimes it is not cost effective.

As we grow older, we need to live within our corpus (sometimes it may not be big enough too!) Our physical and mental capacities reduce. We tend to be a little more conservative as we are aware of the non-growing corpus and want to be more careful so that we can handle future unplanned emergencies. After a certain age, things that we could handle naturally and easily, start looking difficult and unmanageable. One of the foremost aspects is the socializing and social commitments.

Can we keep the pace of the old times? Do we have the physical and mental strength to handle them? In the context of US society, managing your bungalows becomes a tough call beyond a certain age. This is because lawn mowing, trimming of flower beds, weed removal all such things are required to be done. With a fixed corpus, this can go beyond means for many in their society. In India, luckily manpower costs are much more manageable. But as our abilities start tapering off, management of everything becomes a tough call.

I know of someone, a lady, who loves to follow the tradition of “Gauri-Ganapati”, yearly welcoming the deities of Gauri and Ganapati at home. This activity needs a lot of coordination, logistics and planning. During this celebration, friends are invited to pay obeisance to the deities, followed by sumptuous food. All this has been overwhelming as a lot of small details need to be handled. Even when you were younger it was tough. This lady, who is around 70, has found it even tougher and her mind is a bit confused, now. She has slowed down, and it appears that both her walking and thinking has slowed down proportionately but thinking is more degenerated!

Recently during this process, she looked a bit confused and by the time the first day’s festivities were over, she looked very tired and disoriented. She did not get into panic attack mode but she looked on the verge of it. When asked if she were unwell in the previous week, she was not. This indicated that the event overwhelmed her so much that things appeared reasonably out of control. In younger times too, she was not much of an organizer; at the end of the ceremony, she declared she is not going to have the festivities at home, next year. Well, she still could have it, low key, if she wants but she probably does not want to compromise on processes and traditions. What is the right, low key or doing nothing? I do not know but I would rather have it, low key. To me, downsizing does not mean withdrawing from life.

I know of a family who has been committed to social circuits. A minimum of 3 to 4 programs a week parties, home or away. Once in a while, they share, that now they can’t handle this. I suggested to them to slow down and cut down engagements to once a week. The lady finds it very difficult with lesser “load”! Husband is better off in the new situation. Why do people need to be so much social? Is it to show off? Is it that husband and wife cannot spend time together, do they always need to have others for the company?

Jaya and I have almost always gone on our holidays ourselves, never felt the need to have some company. While downsizing, people should try and learn to be with themselves but at the same time, now I am making a conflicting statement, get to know more people. What I mean is when you are on a busy social circuit, you may have the pressure to be present at the party, come what may! (e.g. attending Rotary Club meetings) It seems that the Rotary club allows you to “attend” meetings even if you are in Timbuktu or a small town in Venezuela! Yes, you get to know new people, or do you? If there is a language barrier how will you “meet” people? About my conflicting statement above, “get to know more people”. By this what I mean is that during this new phase you should try and talk to strangers while you are in a shop or a mall. Why not? Don’t be apprehensive! This will give something to look forward to, at the same time, you will be able to come out of “you may have the pressure to be present, come what may” phase of life!

During the downsizing phase, try to learn new things. It may be physical or maybe brain churning. Learning how to use WhatsApp can become a tough activity for people who feel technologically challenged. But once you have learned it, it can become a great way to stay in touch with people. Try using the internet and internet banking! Money transactions remain part of our life till our last day on the Terra Firma! Of course, someone else will have to pay your last hospital bill!! In younger days, all the payments etc were managed as easily as driving a vehicle; those were never a problem in those days.

But at the same time, if you want to withdraw cash, don’t use an ATM, go to the bank! You will meet some people there. Don’t order everything online, go to mom and pop stores next door, simply to meet people. Another thing, I would suggest is to try to learn reading from the screens! Yes, the Hard Cover books and the paperbacks, have their own charm! But going to bookshops can be a problem. If the letter size is small it can again become tricky. Insufficient light can also create an issue while reading books. Use the screen means use a Tablet or a Kindle, to read books. You can change the brightness, you can increase the font size too! Don’t get stuck into the phrase, “In our times…” In our time’s things were different but if better options are available, use them. You can write about your experiences using computers, not necessarily to share with others. Do this writing for the purpose of reminiscence, for your own self. Try doing it, you will find it amazing that you have so many memories with you, like the hidden files on the computer.

Friends, I can go on and on and on! But I don’t want you to call me a boring old man! I will sign off with something which tells you the gist of what I am saying. My daughter and her husband are permanently moving to Canada in six to eight months. Their formalities are completed. A friend had come to our home, for Ganapati darshan, the other day. Our Ganapati idol is an eco-friendly idol made of Silver; we never follow the immersion process as done by others! I told my friend, our Ganapati has also got his Canadian PR! He will travel with my daughter to Canada next year! He was a bit surprised! Be practical! This puts downsizing on auto-pilot mode! You can always start something new and less challenging!

Let the “GoGang” be!

Hope that WILL, will find a way!

Golden Age Gang (GoGang) is a fancy name I want to give to the aging population! Within a couple of hours of my publishing the blog “Age with an open mind IV” two friends Sudhakar and Vijay passed very similar comments, “Age with the Open eyes too!” I had made a passing comment on things for which old population should keep their eyes open too; it can be a subject for a blog itself. Sudhakar in his inimitable style drew a beautiful picture depicting the meaning of what he wanted to say.

SonyaEye

So here I am suggesting, let the “GoGang” be! At the same time let them not forget to keep their eyes open! With families becoming nuclear, different units in families live separately, including the retired families. A change is taking place as retiring and settling down has become a collaborative process between nuclear families. Younger families can help retirees settle down but they can do so by remaining in background.   

One sees and hears so many different experiences all around that it is better to keep eyes and ears open. What you need in the old age is peace of mind! The peace will help retirees in keeping good health, financial independence and healthy relations with near and dear ones. Other things that will make Golden Age Gang (GoGang) feel independent, is to help them take care of themselves, with as little support as possible. Young people may set up GoGang’s Wifi’s or gadgets for them if they are technically uncomfortable. GoGang may need support in setting up their cell phones! Things are changing so fast these days that even younger generation can feel the challenges of technology.

The importance of being independent is twofold for GoGang. Independence is sometimes the only thing seniors may feel they can control, as certain aspects of their life change with age. Additionally, maintaining independence promotes a sense of achievement that for many seniors generates a great sense of self-worth and well-being. Don’t forget that the same people were younger once and have achieved a lot in their working lives!

Often, seniors are able to live independently with a little or no help at all. However, some need assistance due to physical or mental limitations that may come with aging. In these cases, living at home alone, does not become a lost cause. Home health care companies are mushrooming in India, who help seniors maintain independence for as long as possible. Caregivers help old people in activities of daily living, such as grocery shopping, light cleaning, cooking and other activities that enable seniors to live at home independently. In typical Indian way, this is also being done in unofficial way. It can be a quid pro quo arrangement. I know of someone who lives in a bungalow; he has provided staying quarters to a family, free and they have arrangement whereby both the families help each other by providing services and free quarters!

We must understand that in order to maintain true levels of independence, it is important for seniors to be involved in their own care. When assisting the GoGang, don’t come in and perform all their duties. Instead, follow a technique called interactive caregiving. This means involving seniors in daily activities and duties, dependent on the senior’s capabilities. Let the GoGang be part of the solution and do not treat them as a problem.

Some seniors are able to take part with house cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking and other duties, let them do it. In fact, you should encourage them to do it. Above and beyond performing household tasks together, engage in other activities with seniors, such as playing games, going for walks, eating meals together or simply engaging seniors in lively conversations.

When I talk about keeping eyes open by the “GoGang”, I don’t mean about the sleep. Keeping eyes open is not a problem anymore, getting the shut eye is! What happens is that people tend to become a little softer and more emotional as they age. Deteriorating health adds to the problem. All your future income is going to be dependent on the assets that you have when you retire. This is where “GoGang” should become pragmatic.

I will share stories to elaborate what I mean. A famous lady lawyer from Pune, from my parent’s generation and her lawyer husband had a big property with a bungalow. Due to her blind love ( at a later stage she had become blind too!) for the son, she transferred the property in her son’s name. When her husband died, the prodigal son ensured that she was forced to leave home. She finally moved to her daughter’s place and died a broken lady.

A classmate was similarly impractical. His son, unfortunately, went big way into gambling. Our friend initially helped him to come out of his gambling debts. But such debts are like a bottomless pit. The problem became so serious that a couple of years back the retired friend had to sell of his flat where he lived, his only asset; this closed the son’s gambling debts (at that time) but our friend has now landed into a big trouble, he is a nervous wreck and asset less. When I last checked, he had gone to stay with his daughter, who lives in the US! This cannot be a permanent solution due to visa issues. How will he handle life after coming back to India? His initial help to his son was ok but what was the point in selling off the only asset? In the worst-case scenario, the son could have to the jail or maybe I don’t know! But now the whole family is down with zero chance of coming up! What was achieved? That my friends is blind love.

Friends, right from the days you start your family, keep open discussions about finances in your home where thought process emphasized should be that “money is part of life, it is not THE life”! With this thinking there is a possibility that your children will look at the money as a means and not the end! In spite of such thought process and training, it is possible that children may think differently after they get married. Their wives may have grown up with different thinking! Don’t forget that people change, and this includes your children!

What then is the solution? Make a Will! It should be very pragmatic, practical! All assets, fixed and liquid, all jewelry everything to pass on to the spouse who dies later. Make separate Wills for husband and Wife! Then after both the spouses die, make it very clear how the assets are to be distributed. Liquid asset values keep on changing; these should be distributed among children in a ratio starting from 100 to 0%, whatever way you want to do it. The sequence of how this will happen and why distribution is made in a certain way should be clearly explained in the Will! Hopefully, this will avoid bitterness among children. We all love our children but we need to be practical and pragmatic for obvious reasons.

But will transition be peaceful after following the basics? That is million dollar question which has no answer!  Hope that WILL, will find a way!

Life’s Priorities!

Decide life’s priorities and try to give closure to events!

I heard recently about  death of someone at the age of around 70. He was a professional working in a consulting company. He had an accident within office premises and died a few days later. Both his children were in the US at that time, one of them rushed back home. The other did not come. We went and met the family and while sharing their grief with us, the mother told us that it was a family decision that the other child will not come. The reason, he had visa issue in the US and hence could not travel outside US with a fear that he may not be able to go back to the US!

What is the meaning of life? When we are born we are not invited to be born but are a result of relationship between two persons, who follow the natural process of procreation. So, when we are born we have no control on our sex, family, place of birth and time of birth. Even the couple does not have control on the sex of the child born! Some of them follow method of “trying’ to have male child by illegal routes (at least in India) of sex determination and abortions. So, it is possible that the embryo formed may never be born if the parents don’t want it to be born. Maybe hundreds or thousands of Rani Laxmibai’s, Indira Gandhi’s, Kalpana Chwla’s or Indra Nuyi’s of this world have been lost to the mankind even before they were born, as someone did not want a girl child!

What makes a family? A family is unit of people where we have parents, children, maybe grandparents. The families are made up of circles which sometime cross each other. To me the inner most circle is husband, wife and children. The grandparents come in the next circle and uncles, aunts and cousins come in the circle after that. Friends come somewhere in between. The death I mentioned above happened in the first circle. Nothing in this world is so important that when death happens within this first circle, including visa issues,  person can not be with the family. To me it is okay, if you miss a joyous occasions but one should never miss the sad events for any reason, especially deaths in the first circle. What could be sadder than the death of your own father? What family decision are we talking about? The worst-case scenario would have been that the prodigal son would have been required to move back to India for good. India is not a jungle. There are opportunities galore in India. Even the senior level ex expatriates are now taking up jobs in India.

Will this prodigal son ever be happy to continue living in USA or where ever he lives in future? When you do not attend the funeral of your own father, will you be able to ever overcome what you did? When you don’t give closure to such events they keep on haunting you! To my knowledge the relationship between father and the son was normal. Who helped him to take this decision? His sister was much younger so it was his mother who pushed him to take this decision. Is it pragmatism? Were there no emotions involved? Did the son never feel that he should have a last look at his father? Is he a weakling or an emotionless person? Is so called better life so important?

Humans use many things in their lives like clothes, cars, laptops and cell phones. In the event of losing any of these items, we humans are quite uneasy for some time. It is not about the money aspect. Humans tend to get attached to the things they own. Homes and land are things about which humans are exceptionally emotional. I know of a family who live in another town away from Pune. They had a home in Pune. They found it very difficult to manage it. Someone suggested that they dispose it off. The owner of the house said, “Over my dead body”! This reaction is the other extreme of the reaction, compared to one by our prodigal son. He thought that he need not even have a last look at the dead body. Maybe for humans land and homes are above your dead father, in the pecking order!

When we use clothes during the day, they get soiled. Next day we change them, wash and iron them for reuse. The clothes are as good as new again. This does not happen in case of us humans. We spend the day in the same clothing, humans also get soiled and next day after bath they are new again. Are they? No, they are not. Humans have mind. The soiled body may become as good as new again. But there is no simple solution to cleanse mind. The “soiling” of mind does not get “cleaned” as easily like clothes and our body! Sometimes there are deep injuries to the mind, sometimes some part is torn. The event of death mentioned above, and of not being able to attend the funeral of one’s own father, can damage and spoil mind’s fabric to a large extent! Maybe damage will be somewhat irreversible! There is a saying, “time is the great healer of everything” but I am not sure how this absence during father’s death will affect human mind. Will time heal the damage 100 percent?

Friends be careful when you do anything in life. Sometimes you may unknowingly damage someone’s mind by your action or your inaction. This can happen in lovers, this can happen in close friends, this can happen in family! Before concluding anything, think twice if you feel that the interaction can cause irreversible damage. We humans are very sensitive people and we need to decide life’s priorities. Being pragmatic is not good in all situations. The damage that occurs to one’s mind or soul is invisible many  times. Materialistic things are not ultimate things in life. Most important for any humans  in life, is to have empathy. Person with empathy will think twice, if required thrice to ensure that the other person’s mind is never disturbed, damaged or torn. Mind you,  this is equally true in our own life too!

Titbits from an inter-continental dash!

Small but interesting experience during travel!

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.  

SeattleToronto2

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!