Conditions Apply, really!

Conditions apply is a term used while advertising things. Hence some advertisers specifically write, “No conditions apply.” Conditions Apply is a commercial way of saying, “Take it with a pinch of salt”. When I was in school there used to be an advertisement of a radio set. It would say, “Listen to any station in the world”! The cost of the set would be less Rs.100/. I asked someone how is it possible? Not that I was an expert in this but I felt that there was something wrong. That person showed the small print in the advertisement. It said, “When you are at that place”! Small print! Now you know what I mean. That was a radio set which could capture Medium Wave stations when you were at that place.

Does this happen in commercial space only or it happens in our lives too? Yes and no both are the real answers, because life is never defined in Black & White or in 1 & 0. There is always grey shade in all facets of life. The love we get from parents, the love we get from kids, the pets, these are all with “No conditions apply.” This happens in the case of close childhood friends too. But ultimately everything in this world follows a Marathi idiom दिसत तसं नसतं म्हणून सारं जग फसत  which means that the world is not as we see it or as it appears to us! Or “The grass is always greener on the other side!”

Jackfruit, Coconut are typical real-life examples; they are both rough & tough from outside, but when we get through the top layer, inside is sweet, tasty and coconut water is pleasing. Customer is the king is supposedly today’s motto. Today I read an article by an expat professional white Caucasian American lady. She has been living in Pune for last couple of years. She has openly talked about discrimination that happens world over including the US! On the surface we don’t see it. She said that you may think that there is no discrimination in the US but the skin color does play a big part.

She shared a story about an incident in Pune. She and kids were in a departmental store. There was another couple where the lady was Caucasian but her kids had dark skin (mixed marriage). While a service assistant was stocking some bottles in a shelf, she dropped a bottle. She went and told her manager that the dark-skinned kids broke it. He came and told their mother that he would charge her. She was surprised! Our expat friend had seen the incident; she knew the manager and he was the nice guy. But that day she saw the real side of the person. She insisted to show the video, and the truth came out! The service assistant was the culprit. The manager did not even apologize! Real world!

When we go to foreign countries, we see huge Indian diaspora first, second and maybe even third generation variety. They apparently merge quite well with the local society in behavior, dress sense, and discipline. But when some of them come back to Bharat Desh, they are back to their “normal” selves. One of my classmates who lives in Sydney, Australia, has a young desi neighbor, CA by training. The young man once told my friend that he was going on a holiday and looked ecstatic. My friend asked him if there was any specific occasion! The young man said, “ I am looking forward to the moment I land in Delhi, I am going to drive the car. I want to break traffic signals at least 30-40 times! I am feeling claustrophobic in Sydney!” Will his Australian colleagues be able to recognize him when he is in India?

What could be the reason for such two faceted behavior? Is it how we grow up in our young phase? Does the changed environment not have any effect good or bad? Do humans normally behave this way? Is the growth phase so important in life? It is said that human brain grows 90% in first 5 years! Maybe the behavior pattern gets etched in the DNA by that time.

There was an interesting study shared in Readers Digest. They selected about ten cities each in various countries in the world in all the continents. These were from tiny villages to towns, to cities to metropolises. They kept wallets in public places as if somebody had dropped them. Wallets had personal identifications, family photos and tidbits to make them look genuine. Wallets also had money equivalent to US $ 100/ in each wallet, in local currency. There was interesting findings. All the events were captured on video cameras kept at strategic locations for study purpose. 90 to 95 % wallets were returned to authorities in villages. This % started reducing as the population of the place started increasing and was the worst in metropolises, 40/45 %. They concluded that the integrity reduced maybe due to anonymity that humans get in metropolises. This pattern was the same in all continents, across the races! I am quite sure all the persons who kept wallets with themselves, were reasonably normal persons but the circumstances changed them.

We have read from olden times about gurus, mullas and priests taking advantage of the faith people keep in them. We read horror stories about such people who sexually exploit women followers. God’s people and exploitation? Things are not as they look. I have known of people who will always have tika on their forehead, perform Pooja daily for couple of hours but are absolutely corrupt in professional lives. How can we explain their behavior? Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde? We know of doctors who perform illegal tests like sex determination of foetus and on the side are known to be great social workers! A “well-known” industrialist manufactured Gutka in huge quantities in a very modern factory. He never displayed easily visible board of his unit. Minted money, though he obviously knew that Gutka causes cancer. He used to donate huge money for medical cause, opened cancer treatment hospital. Some people sarcastically would call it his “customer complaint center” to handle side effects of his premium product, Gutka!

A well established builder has a similar story. His was a typical rag to riches story and was included in curriculum in commerce college courses. This story was written by a famous management guru. A couple of years back news started trickling in about his cheating in business. He and his family were arrested last year and are in jail. He has ditched thousands of retirees by taking money from them, in the form of fixed deposit and not returning it. He cannot, as his companies which took the money are bankrupt. The family has hidden treasure which police are trying to locate. Of the course one of his sons lives a condo where he pays Rs.4/ lacs per month rent! Doyen of industry!

Are we all this way? Are we waiting for an opportunity to cheat arise? Do we all make a show of how good you are, what a philanthropist you are? I was thinking to myself. Have I ever cheated in the ways explained above, knowingly or purposely? At least I don’t remember doing it. I asked another friend of mine the same question and he also said the same thing. But we have a common friend who was in government service. He must have retired 10 to 12 years back. I know what the salaries were and what the pension is. But he spends money all the time as if the world is going to end tomorrow. We knew that he was one of most corrupt officials. But to others who don’t know him well, he is a god-fearing human being, very pious in life.

I always wonder about such people. There are only two ledgers in this world that every individual has to match. One is your own ledger which you have to match every night, before sleeping and the other is when you meet Him! There is a solution. If you find that your ledger on the earth does not match every night (obviously you can’t sleep well!) Amend your ways while you have the opportunity.  But once you take the final journey and meet Him, how can you mend your ways? You have a non- return valve on your way back! Choice is yours!

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False Pride 2!

In my blog False Pride 1, I had mainly written about attitude and behavior of the people. One of the most important aspects in Indian ethos, is that many old practices and traditions have continued. We have songs, poems and writings about clean and beautiful rivers with lovely birds; we have sayings like “cleanliness is godliness”. But this is one area where we have failed miserably.

                                          जहॉं डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडिया करती हैं बसेरा, वह भारत देश हैं मेरा।

Roughly translated, the song praises India, “The place where Golden Sparrows live happily on trees, this is my great Country, Bharat!” The song also says we are peace loving and truthful, disciplined people. Sometime back a satellite was sent in space and was given the work of checking on our great Bharat! They got many high-resolution pictures. And lo what did they find? All the scientists were flabbergasted while studying the photos. The photos were taken by special laser and X ray vision.

All over India they saw bits of paper lying all over and flying in the wind, of course Kachra! All over India they also found a lot of chits of paper neatly bound and stored. They thought that Indians love cookies and as they analysed the data further, they were surprised that cookies were metallic as well as paper cookies! When this data was given to Indian Government, they found that it is hoarded money and gold!

We as a society are proud of our culture but en masse we break rules, we cheat. It all starts with our daily routine. It is about morning ablutions. Even in the year 2018, our government is still required to run advertisement informing the importance having toilets inside homes. In olden times, as there were no pucca homes, using places a bit away from home was natural, though a bit risky. This practice continues even today; in certain parts of India it is macho to say that we have toilets in home but we still go in the field. It is so manly!  But what about women folk?

Our holiest of the river is the river Ganga. It is said that if we take a bath in the river we will be purified of all our sins. Maybe it is possible, I have never had a  bath in the Ganga but I am told that it is very dirty. Many towns, cities dump their drainage directly into Ganga, the tanneries dump their waste in it. Even today the dead bodies are dumped in the river with a belief that the person will go directly to heaven, due to this final holy dip! Successive governments are allocating large funds to clean Ganga but the problem is unresolved due to unclean minds of the people.

Pune, the city where I live, has a pair of rivers called Mula/Mutha. We have the same problem of drainage going in the river without treatment, by design; corporation has not built many sewage treatment plants.  The river Mutha is so small that the water that generally flows, is drainage water. While doing survey of the river bed, while designing the path for Metro, the team leader during the visit asked, “Where is the river”? The municipal corporation shows total apathy, people also add to this apathy. The building and road construction people, dump their rubble in the river bed. There is no check on them, they are never caught even though this is done openly. While driving on any bridge on the river, we see people throw the old flowers and pooja material  in the river. It is supposed to be the correct thing to do so, as per traditions.

Then of course, we have mass looting of sand from rivers, ores from mines mafia. We have sandalwood loot from jungles. There are people who steal electricity en mass. People in certain areas just don’t pay electricity charges; when authorities come to cut their power, they are beaten and forced to go away. I read in today’s newspaper that for high school 12th grade exam in UP, 1 million examinees just did not turn up. The reason? Government has taken strict measures to ensure that the education mafia is checked. Proxy candidates appearing for exams was the norm, hence the absenteeism, now. In Marathwada region of Maharashtra, some years back it was suddenly seen that students became brilliant, their pass % almost reached 90% plus. This was simply due to lax supervision. Once government ensured that district collector was personally responsible they had to make sure that there were no malpractices;  result % of pass students went below 40%.

You go to any major city in India. Vehicles are parked in no parking areas or on footpaths in droves. Signals are similarly jumped en masse. Once the traffic policemen go home in the evening, the traffic boards of “One Way, No Parking, Even/odd date parking” exist just for the name sake. Two wheelers are meant to carry two people, we ride 3/4 at a time! Helmets are mandatory for two wheelers, majority simply don’t follow the law. We see auto rikshas ferrying 12/15 children for school, when the official capacity is 3!

Where is this leading? How to prevent this? Who are the people breaking law? It’s you and me! It is rich and the poor! It is people from city and villages! It is educated and un educated people!  All break various laws en masse! Many of us are proud of breaking laws. We sing paeans of our heritage, our culture, our traditions! These traditions came into being when people lived in smaller places, villages; there was no population pressure. Why old disciplined culture from villages not transferred to large cities? In fact, this same lack of culture from cities is now going back to smaller places. Probably, in olden times, people respected, each other, helped each other because most knew each other. In the anonymous culture of large cities, people just don’t seem to care or bother about others. But again, some of our brethren who live in foreign countries, merge seamlessly with local culture where they normally live; once they are back in India, they are back to their normal Indian behavior. Does this mean that they behave differently in foreign countries not by choice but because they are forced to so?

We have a great culture, which goes back to thousands of years. We have great traditions. I am not able to understand why these changes have happened in our mass behavior in cities as well as in villages; the foreigners politely say, ” Oh, India is a different country!” What is the way out of this? How to coax masses to behave in orderly disciplined way? How to make people understand that cheating in every thing is not the correct way? People say that this should start from school level. But we read of big scams where teachers never go to schools, to get the grants, higher number of students are shown on the roll! Teachers take the profession because many of them are not good enough to do anything else. There are institutions who do not pay the salaries to teachers for months together.

I will tell you story of my cousin. He is a PhD from IIT, Kanpur. After retirement from industry,  he taught his subject in one of the engineering colleges. Then he wanted to move to another city. His college offered him to stay on their payroll. Well they needed a good PhD. They offered him Rs. 1,00,000/ salary per month! So where is the catch? The management told him that they will withdraw Rs. 80,000/ every month using ATM card. He did not join back!

I am not a pessimist! But these are some problems for which I do not see any solution in near future. Do you?  What is it that we are proud of? My beautiful, lovely India is only in songs!

Long Live India!

India is a country of paradoxes. More you get to know about it the more you will get perplexed! I am born and brought up in India and all my life I have lived in India. I always think and feel that I know a lot about India. But I have realized that I hardly know about thought processes going on India. Some acts & traits of people can be said to be because of too much poverty or too much money! I thought that I am generally able to classify things! But it appears that if I appear for a test about Indian way of behaving or reactions, I will fail miserably. 

My friend Suresh who lives in Sydney, Australia told me a story. I was simply stunned after I heard the story! Their neighbours in Sydney are of Indian origin. A 30-year old person from that family, a Chartered Accountant by training, met him. He told my friend, “I am going to India for a holiday”, so Suresh said, “Have fun”! Suresh asked him where will he take his fun filled holiday, in India. The guy said, “First thing that I am going to do is to the break traffic signals at least 30/40 times. I feel claustrophobic due to the disciplined and organized way of life in Australia.” Suresh said, “You can do it here too, as many times as you want.” The guy said, “Here I will lose my license, is it not?” 

What do you say of such guys? Educated, living in foreign rich country, his idea of having fun in India is to break traffic signals 30/40 times. How to react to such statements? I am numb! I always thought that Indian diaspora living in foreign countries will add to betterment and disciplined behavior in India because they live day in and day out in disciplined society! With such obnoxious thought processes, ISRO’s achievements are brought to the earth with a thud! What will you do with digital and progressive India? Progressive India is a myth one feels! What is the use of making world’s largest biometric individual id system? One really feels disheartened.  

But I always feel, that at heart, Indians do not want to follow basic discipline. Take simple case of round abouts, a square with no signals! In the US, I have seen that at such round abouts, traffic is always smooth as ALL follow discipline and go by the rule of right of way! In India, we follow the method of might of way! If there is a jam with this method, two wheelers will simply go on footpath! What would you call such behavior? Why do these things happen? There appears to be a production line consistency of people who simply break all possible rules. Somebody said that this is because of migration in India from villages to cities! But what about our migrants living in Sydney?  

The caricature below depicts the skew thinking of Indian populace. Since the dialogue is written in Marathi, I will explain. The father asks his daughter, what happened with the boy you were courting? Love at second sight? She says that she had almost decided to chuck him, when she first saw him,  as he always chewed tobacco and spit on the road. The father is relieved but then she says that second time I saw him, she finally decided to marry him because she saw him spitting from his fancy brand new Audi!  

 TobaccoAudi

Another caricature below displays a lady talking to her friend. She says that she was to give a speech on Anti-Superstition. But on the way a black cat crossed her path hence she returned back. 

 BlackCat

Caricatures are meant as sarcastic or satiric remarks on situations. In real life, these sorts of things are so predominant, that it does not remain a caricature anymore but becomes the real-life depiction of the way things are happening in our society. Money over rides everything including bad social etiquettes. We may preach things about superstition but when it comes to personal behavior, we will follow the superstition path! I live in an eleven-story high-end condo; one of my cars is always in the uncovered parking. Every day, on this car I either find pieces of bread or rice. The balcony of one of the condos is living quarter for their pet dogs! So, my car knows every day what the dog eats. If I park my car at another open space, it will be covered with a lot of water and clay! Somebody waters their plants in the balcony but feels that my car also needs water and clay on its roof! What do you say about such people?  

Recently, in the state of Rajasthan, a Hindu man killed a Muslim man, a jilted lover of his wife. Then he burnt that man’s body and took video film and shared it on social media. Police action started but suddenly the social media became active to support the man! Not the murdered man but the murderer! Can you believe it? People wanted to support the murderer! They even collected a few lacs of Rupees to give to the wife of murderer, as he was in jail. There is a video evidence of what has happened and yet the people want to support the murderer. People started using WhatsApp and FB to collect a big crowd to protest on behalf of the murderer! Government had to shut down Social Media in those areas to avoid ugly scenes. Any comments?  

Honestly, I am a very positive guy and think very positively about India. I am proud of our culture, sub culture, cross cultures! We are very large sized European Union and our eating habits, cultures, the way we look are vastly different. Normally, we live peacefully. But it is the incidents mentioned above and especially about the educated Indian from Sydney that my faith is shaken. When I sleep over this blog, I will definitely come out of the melancholy mood I am in! Tomorrow morning when I see the lovely atmosphere with hills in the background and birds flying, I will back to normal! Long Live India!  

Paradox, thy name is India!

A friend Shreekant, went to Europe for a month and mostly lived in Holland with relatives. On his Facebook page he shared some very nice write-ups about the pleasant weather, systems and so on. In his comments there were natural references and comparisons with Bharat desh. He made a very prudent and specific statement that we tend to be very harsh on ourselves when we compare with other societies and other nations, we are a young nation with very old civilization. I totally agree with him because there are a lot of complexities involved in our nation and life! I have always been wondering for the reasons for these paradoxes! Honestly I am never able to come to any conclusion for my question, WHY? It is why to everything.

Let us not say that in India, people live mostly in Villages, it is old story. There has been a big migration from villages to towns and cities. I know why this is happening. It is the abject poverty and lack of job opportunities in villages that pushes people towards cities. Recently I was in Europe, in larger cities and smaller towns and sometimes in villages. Obviously my mind too started making comparisons. Both in cities and smaller places things were relatively similar in Europe. In India also we have similarities but of the wrong kind! We are extremely capable as a society of making our cities & villages dirty! Cities like smaller places can be really dirty! That is the first impression that we carry whenever we travel outside India to developed nations.

 India as a country has made great progress  in satellite technology,  they are well known in IT field! India is the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Suzuki car production in India is much larger than their production in Japan! India has slowly started doing well in sports at world level! Indian engineers, doctors, scientists have done pretty well on global scene. This is where the paradoxes begin.

Let us begin at the beginning. How long have we been one, as a nation? Before 1947 there was no concept of India. We may sing paeans of glory of Bharat, जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा यह भारत देश है मेरा! It feels good to listen to the song but the ground realities are quite different. Indian continent was made up of hundreds of small kingdoms ruled by the Rajas and Nabobs. For the first time in the history of the continent, area from Pune to Atak was under the rule of Peshwas. That too was for a brief period. Many years before that, Mughal invaders came to “India” and ruled. Before 1947 British ruled us for 150 years, using a small army and big brain. British had clearly understood that since there was no “India” as such, they could easily use the divide and rule strategy. Under the non-Indian rulers most of the population never had any rights; the benefits of technology hardly reached them. British made sure that industrial revolution benefits reached only where and when it was beneficial to British. There was no “All India” policy.

European countries have existed as nations for centuries, sometimes by different names, some have split and some have merged. Japan has been in existence for a long time. China also is around for a long time. United States and Canada have also been existing as countries for a couple of centuries. Most important aspects of these countries is, though there has been variance in different parts of the nations, mostly they were quite coherent in food, culture, clothing and language. Except for the obviously large countries, all others are pretty small, smaller than the many Indian States of today. Ruling and managing such countries was much easier.

Indian complexities start with 31 major languages, with that many different cultures, as many different types of foods including the way we eat. But somehow one thing we have in common across the cultures of our great Indian continent is total disrespect for laws and rules, total disregard for each other’s personal space, disregard for maintenance of personal infrastructure of all types. I am not talking of government infrastructure! You must be wondering how I have not written anything about cleanliness! Lack of cleanliness is the end result of everything.

Disrespect for law is ingrained in our DNA. We have disrespect for authority. The respect starts with respect to next individual. In Hindi movies whenever a young person meets elderly person, they are always respected by touching their feet! In mythology we have great stories of Ram, Laxman, and Bharat who go really out of the way to respect their eldest brother Ram. When it comes to public life how respect suddenly vanishes? Though we have our old traditions for respect! In north India even a new born child is addressed with respect, using word आप. Luckhnow culture is known for पहले आप culture, meaning please go ahead, I will follow you! I feel that we make use of traditions conveniently! What could be the reason for disrespect? The Indians were always ruled by others for centuries. Main reason could be it is a way of protesting against authorities. But we forget that now it is our country, so how this attitude will help?

Disrespect to others creates “I don’t care attitude!” I feel like spitting in public, I will spit! In our society chewing paan or betel leaf and/or tobacco, and of course spitting the juice in public, is “culture”! Basic things like standing in a queue are handled so differently. People sometimes stand so much near you in your personal space that you have to tell people to move away. You will be jostled, pushed. Most of the time, someone will always try to jump the queue claiming “I have only half a minute work”! I also find problems in traffic. When I stop for red signal, at least 5 to 10% of times guys on bike will try to snake their way in non-moving traffic banging on my side mirror! Personal space, never heard of that!

Stopping for a red signal is an international norm. We will try to jump signal if policeman is not around, else we think that stopping over zebra crossing is our birth right. This is disrespect to others and law! Laws are made for smooth running of the society. In any society a small percentage of people are bound to break the laws. But in India very large numbers break laws with impunity. Once I was driving thru a green signal; after I passed, I heard commotion. Suddenly around 15 bikers just broke the red signal and drove thru. A policeman was there but how can a single policeman catch 15 people? Two wheelers are supposed to carry two passengers; it started with taking additional baby in the lap. Then it changed to two adults plus two children around the age of 10 or 12. One of them sitting on the petrol tank of the bike. Mind you this is not an exception!

Personal infrastructure is the area around homes, condos or where you live! In olden days there were small homes generally one story or ground level. Cleaning homes and pushing the dust outside home was the definition of cleaning the home. There was no concretization, there was no paper, so cleaning was pretty simple, push dust outside in the dust around your home. Things have now changed drastically and homes have also changed. The amount of trash we generate is enormous. The mix has changed, there is plastic, there is metal, there is paper and there is glass. Still in many homes definition of cleaning has not much changed. At the most people collect their trash and throw it in a convenient spot on the way to somewhere, dumpsters be damned! The best way to keep things clean is to not create the trash in public spaces;  when you achieve this, you  don’t have to clean the roads. In advanced countries the trash that you generally see on roads is tree leaves and cigarette butts. Somehow developed countries have also not been able to eliminate these butts. Once my grandson Suyash, who lives in the USA, had come to Pune. From our 7th floor abode we could see a lot of buildings around. Suyash asked me, “Grandpa, why don’t they paint their homes?” They all looked pretty ungainly because they were never probably repainted after construction. Buildings were maybe 10 year old. In these ten years not even one building was repainted. With Monsoon and heat, Moss streaks make buildings not a very pretty site. I am sure people living in these buildings could definitely afford to get them repainted once in ten years! I  normally live in a colony of row houses or town houses. People just used to hang their laundry from front balcony. Only after we started fining people they reluctantly stopped it.

I feel that all the lack of discipline, disdain for laws and rules, lack of consideration for others are independent of social status, financial status, (In fact sometimes I feel that it is inversely proportional) and your education. All the cleanliness drives, swatchhata diwas are of no use if the mindset is not changed. If we as a society handle the trash prudently instead throwing stuff where ever we want, we will have cleaner cities and villages. Pune is one of the better places where sweepers sweep the roads sincerely but I would rather have sweeper less Pune. Why are we required to sweep the road instead of collecting trash? All over India there is a big drive going on from government to stop open defecation, subsidies are also offered to needy. to build toilets But in Punjab many men still defecate in fields though they have toilets at home; when asked why they do so? The reply was, “It is Manly”! God bless us! Amen! You may listen to the song जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा using link below. Tell me how you feel after listening to the song, now!