Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

9th November!

Mr Modi spoke about the importance of 9th November in his brief speech to the nation! He said, “On the 9th of November, three important world events have taken place.” I was surprised because I was aware of the Ayodhya Supreme Court verdict, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor. The third event was the fall of the Berlin Wall – this happened in 1989.

These three are significant events in history. The court verdict and the public reactions show India as a developed society and democracy. The Kartarpur Corridor opening is about the thawing of the tense relations between India and Pakistan. Fall of Berlin Wall signified the significant change in the relationship between the Western World and the Soviet Union led Iron Curtain nations.

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The Kartarpur Corridor is a border corridor between Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). The corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.

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The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Construction of the Wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off  West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. I am not going to discuss this point in detail because it is not relevant to what I am writing currently.

Ayodhya dispute is a well-known religious dispute in India, which started soon after India got independence. In the conflict, the Hindu’s claimed that Babri Masjid was built on the original place where Bhagwan Ram was born. For forty years, it continued and was always the flashpoint of hate speeches, claims, counterclaims, and sometimes riots. The issue was a point for the dispute in various elections. Hindutva parties would have rath yatras, which culminated into some fight or the other. All political parties used Ayodhya dispute as a strong point of argument leading to further tensions. All this culminated when Hindus finally merged at the Babri Masjid for sloganeering and show of strength. The situation went out of control, and the  Karsevaks came in large numbers and demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.

After the demolition of the Masjid, there has been tension in Ayodhya and around all the time. Some groups would suddenly land in Ayodhya, creating tensions. Based on this subject, there would be discussions, claims/counter-claims in the other cities, which would lead to riots. Political parties shamelessly exploited the human sentiments causing division in the society based on religion.

Ultimately this dispute ended up in the Supreme court. After arguments, counter-arguments, proofs provided by the Archeological Society of India, Supreme Court decided to have the hearings for 40 days every day. Based on that, the decision was reached, which was declared on 9th November 2019.

I do not want to write about the fairness, the correctness of the Supreme Court justice, after all, the Supreme Court is the final authority to decide disputes considering the legal aspects based on evidence and proofs. The judges are luminaries, and that is how they have reached the top position in their field.

I am thoroughly and wholeheartedly impressed by the way the nation handled the most critical day of the judgment. The government of India and the state governments had made security arrangements in such a way that they would be able to handle the crisis if it arose. I am sure the officials must have discussed with leaders of political parties and general dignitaries in the society the importance of maintaining peace, whichever way the result went. People were advised not to celebrate overtly. The judgment was not a victory or defeat for someone or the other. It was the resolution of the long-standing dispute which was being handled by the highest authority in the country.

In the days of social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, it is simple to spread false stories and rumours. Police Authorities had sent the circulars warning people against spreading the wrong information and rumours. From what I read in the newspapers, a minuscule number of people were arrested for playing mischief.

I think it is a good sign for India; it indicates that we as a society are finally maturing. The absence of over-celebrating, not putting up the banners about the victory of community A over community B, shows that we, as a society, are learning to understand the importance of restraint! The Supreme Court judgment was the judgment of national significance, and it has brought out the sensible and humbling behaviour by society in general. Of course, there are extremists on both sides of the judgment, but they also have behaved sensibly because of maturity or because of the fear of action that the police might take.

Many times it has been observed that during important events or incidents happening in the country, it is the political parties who behave immaturely. When the government decided regarding Article 370 in Kashmir, some parties still made politics out of that act. The act was of national importance, Those opposing the action could say that action is correct, but it should have been handled differently. Suggesting different methods of handling the situation is one thing, but talking against such an important matter is incorrect. For such vital events, the whole nation should be together, forgetting their difference. Both these situations were almost equal to the war-like situation!

After Article 370 decision by India in Kashmir, the relationships between India and Pakistan have reached the nadir! Against Pakistan’s anti-India propaganda, the Indian government has shown maturity; the major nations in the world have been explained the situation, and most have supported India. But on the side, Pakistan had declared before 5th August that they would open a four km path connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). Pakistan has finally shown some maturity and has kept up its promise. The path was opened to pilgrims on the 9th of November, the same day as Ayodhya’s judgment. Is it the indication of the thawing of the relationship between Pakistan and India? I hope so!

The nations and societies mature and progress over a period. It will happen only when the governments act maturely and responsibly. Taking a posture or giving immature reactions don’t resolve any issues. Pakistan has to accept the ground reality that most of the problems with India are due to terrorist camps that are allowed to flourish in Pakistan. If they take action against terrorists, most of the problems are solvable.

Let us hope that there will be many more 9th Novembers in the future which will resolve long pending issues between nations, political parties and society in general!

I thought you might like the link below. It’s about the Berlin Wall!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50363404

 

Are you not proud of your nation?

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As usual, let me make a disclaimer! I don’t care which party is ruling our country! Whatever I am writing in this blog is apolitical! We were under the British rule for 150 years before the independence we got on the 15th of August in 1947! Thanks to strong personalities like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, we became India or Bharat as we are known in the world todayOur national wealth was looted by the British under the garb of collecting taxestaking away raw materialBritish presence (and their final going away) did a few good things for India. We became one nation, we had railways, we had an established all-India administrative and police services.  

In Nehru era Public Sector units, Irrigation got significant importance. Indira Gandhi broke Pakistan into two, thereby correcting the problem created by the British by at least 50%! Kashmir issue resolution opportunity was lost; it could have been achieved in the Shimla Agreement. Indian population showed great maturity in overcoming Emergency, the black patch on the Indian Democracy! Jayprakash Narayan led the movement though he was old by that time.  

Next twenty years were tumultuous, but India somehow overcame the same, though we did not have strong leadership. India’s jumping the IT bandwagon successfully started the financial growth processAlong with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering.  

All the governments did a lot of good things in their times and bad things too! Then came the Modi Government in 2014 and looks like it will run till 2024! They have had their ups and downs. They have also done some good things and some bad things. From this angle, it is not much different than the previous governments.  

Along with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering and diverting funds. These issues created a need for strong actions.

There are specific actions taken by this government which were never considered by any other government before. These were essential for a mature democracy and were generally discussed previously with a glass of Chivas Regal. Nobody ever thought that it was possible in India. 

Yesterday, I shared a certificate displayed below with my friends. The reactions to the certificate were varied! “I have already done it” was message sent by many. Some people sent me a congratulatory messageMy friend Shrikant appreciated this very strongly, and that is what led me to write this blog. 

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He wrote an elaborate message which I am sharing verbatim!  

“What did you do? Please elaborate?? Such certificates are sent by IT/Vigilance department of Govt of India, to persons having an impeccable track record of regular tax payments & no offences registered, in Govt data tracker! Just a law-abiding citizen. I am also told this is an initiative to motivate/thank taxpayers while furthering the stated objective of putting a high premium on honesty. I have received two such certificates already. Many others also must have! 👍😊 

An individual or an organisation can go to the website https://pledge.cvc.nic.in/ and take this pledge if one desires so. When I went to the site, it also shared information that 85,86,062 individuals and 123,138 organisation have taken this pledge. In the discussion  on our WhatsApp group, somebody said, “Why do you need a certificate?”  

Then a thought came to my mind. We always ask the question what has my nation done for me? But should we not be asking the questionwhat have I done for my nation? I feel that the British have, along with many things, ensured that our pride for our nation was killed. Even today some people say, “We don’t deserve to run our nation. The British should be brought back to run it.”  

The current government has taken many actions in international diplomacy, where people listen when India talks! Now, do we not feel proud of the nation? One major historical correction by India of removing article 370 provisions for Kashmir got allround support in the world. Except for Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, all major countries have supported India. China too is looking at Pakistan from strategic and commercial point of view. Let Pakistan default on repayment to China then it will be interesting to see what China does!  

From the beginning of the 21st centurythe concept of media changed drastically. We started having TV news Superstars” who considered themselves knowledgeable in everything. They started behaving as if they were Gods of media; all others were treated by them as mere mortals. Sycophancy was at its best during this phase. Corruption, both material and moral, reached its peak. There formed a group of people who had jumped the free jaunts bandwagon. They would travel with ministers and the Prime Minister. They ended up giving sermons to others — Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, et al. added to this list. You and I were immaterial. 

Now this government has started the initiative of pledging integrity to the nation. It is like saluting when Jan Gan Man is sung or keeping your hand on your heart! I felt proud to take the formal oath; I felt proud of my nation. All through my life, I have always tried to avoid paying bribes for personal work or business. Sometimes I failed as I was not the final authority to take that decision; I was an advisor to some companies. But in my software and furnacerelated business, I have never paid a single Rupee bribe.  

Some of my friends were cynic about this drive. India has had a poor record as far integrity is concerned. Sometimes, we say God Promise; similarly, here we are saying “Nation Promise”! Till date, not even one per cent of people have taken the pledge mainly because many may not be aware of this initiative. When we say God Promise, do we break the promise? The same logic can be and should be applied to your nation. Assume that even 5% of people take this pledge, will it not make any change in India? Will you beak your new version of “God Promise”?  

What have to say to the cynics? For those who tried to make fun of the certificate, I shared, I will say in the endI can understand the doubters because things have not been as they should have been, so they feel that people will take the pledge but keep on doing what they have been doing! We are always going to have Naysayers who are fashionably called Liberals! Liberals group was not very much against government stuff as they were getting their foreign jaunts and were able to run Nalanda Vidyapeeth-just to give an example.  

Government has started a new portal for a portal http://www.pgportal.gov.in/ The portal is used as  Centralised Public Grievance Redressal Monitoring system 

Such an initiative has never been tried before.  

External affairs ministry under Sushma Swaraj was helping individuals stuck in foreign countries due to some issues. Mr Modi makes it a point to spend a day during Diwali with soldiers on the borders.  

I am not at all saying that it is hunkydory on all fronts. In many areas, issues and problems continue. To run a nation as big and as diverse as India is not going to be easy. On top of that, the British had looted our wealth for 150 years and made us a developing countrywhere famines were a part of life initially. But the green revolution, white revolution (Milk and Sugar) have taken place. In many areas like infrastructure, India is progressing fast. Metros are being built in many large cities. Let’s not forget ISRO!  

To me, the definition of naysayers is a bit different, besides the conventional oneThese are the people who after having toilets at home, want to go to the fields because they feel manly. It is those people who routinely break many laws and rules of public life, like parking, wrong side driving. These are the people who behave rudely with service providers like waiters; they cut corners at every possible opportunity in public lifeThese are the people who follow every general rule just after taking a fivehour flight from Mumbai to Singapore!  

About the friend who made fun of my statement about the certificate should go and ask the Sahara Boss, DSK Boss, Unitech Boss and many other such socalled big people if things are funnyMallya and Neerav Modi are enjoying their new status as fugitives and are forced to take shield behind the slow legal process in Britain. I am sure they have very high social status in the British page, three people!  

Income tax department sends certificates to people who pay personal Income Tax above specific value and appreciates them for being honest and proud citizens.  

Government is trying to push honesty culture, and if people find it funny, they must laugh loudly! If someone finds that it is a joke that I am proud of being an Indian, so be it! Some people have queer sense of humour!  

 

 

 

Light your own path- Diwali!

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I think this the second time in my 70 years, I am not at our home for Diwali. Someone asked me how I was celebrating Diwali in Montreal? My simple answer was this is the longest Diwali celebration we had, ever. We reached here end of August and will be back to Pune in early November. For Jaya and me, all these two months have been like Diwali. With Rhea, Priya and Nikhil around, every day was spent like Diwali. For me, Diwali is a mindset. We should have Diwali every day by being able to share the happiness with your loved ones; most of the times being with them itself is happiness!

In the conventional sense, Diwali is the festival of lights that celebrates the victory of good over evil. In ancient India, Diwali was a major harvest festival, and the lighting of the lamps was associated with the sun.

The meaning of Diwali is a festival of the light which dispels the darkness of our ignorance; it is a festival of the light which shows us the way on our journey through life. The purpose is not to glorify the light of the candle, or the light of the firecracker. The purpose is to glorify the light of God.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories. Nonetheless, the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

But the question that comes to mind is why there is evil in this world? There are, of course, some outright evil events, evil people. But the percentage of such people is small. People turn into evils over small issues or events. Jealousy, not being happy with what you have are some of the reasons. These are some of the small hurdles that can be easily overcome, especially by people like me who are in the golden period of life. But this is easier said than done.

We have a “beautiful” app called WhatsApp available to us, thanks to modern technology. Diwali time is the time where it is totally misused. I have received hundreds of Happy Diwali messages, but only two of them were specific. It was written,” Pramod, how you folks are spending Diwali in Montreal? You must be missing Pune and so on!” There were phone calls, and we made phone calls to wish people Happy Diwali. All other messages were “forwards.” Some were self-created greetings but again with no personalisation. Do we really feel happy or do we really mean it when we forward a Happy Diwali message? To me, at least it is as good as an automated message coming to me from my Bank or from online shops where I buy things! Some of them at least a take an effort in personalising the message (using the software) and say “Dear Pramod, bla bla bla!”

On one of the COEP groups, there is a rule of not sending forwards! But during Diwali so many Happy Diwali “forwards” were sent that my friend Sharad was exasperated and wrote,

It looks like all the Admins are tired of telling the members not to send greetings on this group. We have received so many happy Diwali messages that I am worried whether we will have indigestion of happy Diwali. 

Is Diwali something special that makes us forget the rules? There are about 150 people on this group so you can imagine the clutter that we managed to create.

I was trying to understand the tradition of burning crackers during Diwali. The tradition somehow started in old times with the idea of scaring away evil spirits; people forget that there are no evil spirits, physically; the evil spirit is in the mind of the people. Nowadays, the crackers that are burst have very high decibel noise; sometimes it is impossible to sit peacefully at home even with all windows shut! The style now is to burst a set of ten thousand crackers at a time, loosely linked to each other. World over, bursting crackers is a part of many celebrations. But in western countries, it is done at a safe, designated area like a ground or a stadium. But we….. just don’t want to learn.

There are so many good traditions but even with the spread of knowledge why do we stick old not so good traditions. During Diwali, families visit each other, give gifts, spread the joy. Some people paint their homes before Diwali. Then there has been a tradition of putting up beautiful lanterns at home. Though readymade ones are available, in some families there is still the tradition of making lanterns at home. It is a way of coming and staying together in our busy lives.

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Rangoli is an art form from India in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as coloured rice, dry flour, coloured sand or flower petals. It is usually made during Diwali, but it is also made in Onam, Pongal and other Indian festivals. Rangoli is done on any auspicious day during the year. I am not saying that this art is dying, but this could be easily followed by many more art-minded people!

Diwali is a good opportunity to get great gifts from others; it is a part of the tradition. Ladies don’t forget to get a big gift from your husbands on Padwa. Make some nice faral for them; you will get what you want. Brothers don’t be stingy. Give some lovely gifts to your sisters; they are the ones who really love you but cannot express it regularly because they have left “your home” after marriage. Give them lots of love and make them feel at home!

A new trend has started as per the information shared by some shop keepers. In olden times new clothes etc. were purchased before Diwali or before your school restarted if you had outgrown your school uniform. Now with increased incomes in many families, there is no Diwali purchase. People just go out on weekends and buy new stuff! There was a time when I was younger, my mother used to make Diwali special food items at home, just a week before Diwali. Now the trend has changed all these Diwali specials are available round the year.

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But I will be pleased if you manage to keep the “Happy Diwali” state of mind all-round the year. There will be illnesses, there will be sad events but treat them like a blip, they are part of life;  but have Diwali round the year,  after all, by reaching the golden phase of life, we have earned it!

HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL MY FRIENDS!

Does anyone read your blog, Pramod?

I publish my blogs on WordPress and share them with friends on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and email. One friend from on a WhatsApp group wrote to me a poignant message, “Pramod? Anybody reading your blog? 😄😄” Honestly, I do not know how I should react to such comments. By the way, on our group itself, there was a big discussion on the blog referred by this friend, which was the result of many people reading my blog.

By remaining silent, I may encourage him to write more such remarks. If I had replied to my friend, I would not have gained anything. I don’t need to explain and justify to anyone why I write blogs. Writing has now become part of my daily routine. I feel very uncomfortable if I am not able to read or write on any day. So, it would be like explaining to my friend why I breathe!

Then a thought came to my mind; the WhatsApp group which I am talking about are my classmates who are mostly in the age group of 70 plus. Recently one of our classmates celebrated his 75th birthday. So, my friends are getting older. Old age brings specific difficulties as you age. A few friends have only biologically aged, but some have aged mentally also. Illnesses are something totally different. Diseases can catch you unawares at any age; nobody is ever prepared for serious illness. But I also want to share with you that some of my friends have remained quite fit; they still travel and work. Some others are mentally very alert and enjoy life fully in the golden phase of life.

I am sharing my thoughts about those friends who are unwell, not fit enough or those who have decided that they have become old. The idea came in my mind after reading the lovely message sent by my friend, which was discussed above. I feel bad for him. Is he unwell? Is he mentally disturbed for some reason? I am also going to share the experiences of other friends and how some of them handled tough situations.

Let me start with our friend. I had called him a few months back to find out how he was. He said that currently, he was not keeping good health and hence did not feel like attending group meetings. I assumed that he must be getting himself treated by doctors. But his messages on the group indicate that something is not right. He writes vague; he sometimes asks meaningless questions. Sometimes he asks queries about some messages after a week. Maybe he is not using WhatsApp regularly. But the quality of his messages indicates that he should take more care of his health. Initially, he used to send messages about some unproven non-conventional treatments on serious ailments like cancer! Even after suggesting to refrain from posting such messages, he continued. At the end of one group dinner, I had to publicly tell him the ill effects of sending details about unproven treatment for severe illnesses like cancer. Before he questioned me about my knowledge on the subject, I told him, “Last year, I was treated for cancer for three months. I am talking from my personal experience.”

I will share some good sides also from the group! All of us were together in Engineering College (COEP) in Pune. During our careers, many have done well. But it is interesting to know what some of us are doing during the golden phase of life. Vilas has become a well-known palmist and teaches palmistry. He is very busy doing what he enjoys. Vasant has gone into social work but never talks about it unless asked. Another friend is active in writing about Tatwadyan. A friend Suresh still works full time but takes Yoga courses in Sydney, Australia. Rajendra has kept himself busy in teaching Brahmavidya. I want to tell him jokingly that he is more active now than he used to be during his career.

I write blogs on varied subjects but never wrote anything about our group. Our friend Shashi is instrumental in getting and keeping people together. He comes up with novel ideas and starts some discussion on a subject. Such messages invoke a lot of comments and reviews which includes criticism too. But these things make the group lively. Another activity we have on the group is solving puzzles Sudhakar and Shriniwas are the maths wizards from the group. Hats off to them. They are very comfortable with anything to do with maths.

For obvious reasons I am not writing the names of some friends when I write about them. A couple of them are down with paralysis — one since about ten months and the other for almost two and a half years. One of them also needs the support of the pacemaker for his heart! Friends go and meet them because of the restrictions on the movement. A friend is going through chemotherapy every month. He has 15 bad days every month. But all of them are bravely facing what destiny has given them.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-18 at 17.47.27

I found this beautiful message on the internet and found that it is very appropriate. These friends who are going through significant illnesses, and are handling them bravely. One of our friends has almost become blind due to diabetes issues. How can we contribute to making their life a little more exciting? In the same vein as in the message above I will say, “Let our friends enjoy our WhatsApp banter. It is their only current way of communicating daily with many friends. We should show them empathy- I will never use the word “Sympathy”. These are our brave friends, so they need empathy. On the group, there are specific rules and regulation which all must follow, but if these friends break the norms once in a while, we can softly and personally inform them, or the best way will be to talk to them. Don’t forget that a friend has 15 bad days every month. Other friends are going through the tough grind every day. At least to me, their words will be like a beautiful song to me; let us not have cages made of stringent rules. We need not be very rigid!  Provide them with a tree to sit on! If in our golden period, we are not able to empathise and give love to others, when are we going to do it? We need to throw away that small word EGO from our system, which will make us softer and better human beings.

To my dear friend who asked me if anyone reads my blogs! Friend, why not try and read some of my blogs. Especially read the current one. It is about love and empathy. Throw the ego and sarcasm away. Have you forgotten that we have two gems or diamonds, in our group, whichever way you want to describe? Sonya and Pravin! How much pleasure do they give us by sharing their paintings, poems, small gems of information from literature or old poems? Pravin has lately become शीघ्र कवी. He quickly writes poems on the current topics of discussions. He recited some of them during Poona Club lunch; you missed them.

Finally, reply to your query. First, there is one person who reads my blog, me! 🙂🙂 Friend one of my blogs last year was read by 675 people, and a recent one was read by 350 people. In a year, thousands read my blogs from the world over. How do I know this? Whenever anyone reads my blog, I get a message that is how I know the details. If you have the fear that I am making money on writing blogs, no, I am not! Are you even aware that Vijay Saheta has already written his first blog a couple of weeks back? Ravi Mahuli writes hundreds of blogs about Ved and Tatwadyan. So please try and keep your mind open. Try and read a few. Maybe you would start writing blogs about your favourite subject, Farmers and their issues!  Do some research, and you will know that the blog can be written in any language.

I love when people ask me questions about what I write. It helps me improve further and makes me think differently, thereby increasing my horizon. Your three or four words gave me a subject for the blog! A big thank you!

Should Hindi be imposed?

My friend Shrikant wrote on Facebook a very sensible note about an alleged imposition of Hindi all over India. He is a മരുമകൻ– son in law of Kerala. So, I presume that he is in a better position than me to comment. This led me to read the original statement made by Amit Shah, our home minister on the subject. The gist of what he said is in the statement below. 

Mr Shah said, Hindi is spoken by most of the people and can unite the whole country. He said efforts would be made to expand Hindi to different parts of the country but not at the cost of other languages. Shah later also said that the foreign language English is predominant in India, so instead why not Hindi?  

I have not understood the controversy in the statement. Shah has not said that it should be promoted at the cost of the regional languages, anywhere in the statement.  

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.  

Even 200 years back, India was not known as India as it is recognised today. Till then there were Rajahs, Badshahs who used to run their own kingdom. In those times, travel and communication facilities were inferior. Going from place A to place B would take hours if not days. With these limitationsthe bouquet of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals would remain disconnected with other cultures. The possibility of the merging of cultures must have been within a distance of about 50  to 75 km if the terrain was not steepWith rough terrain, that also would be difficult.  

1947 created India and Pakistan. British had started the railways; road transport had become better than before. Travel had become a bit easier. So some mixing of culture started automatically. If we consider only the state of Maharashtra, people spoke different Marathi in Bombay, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, JalgaonThe spoken languages were distinctly differentLocal dialects also merged with spoken wordsSo when we speak of Marathi, nobody is really sure Marathi of which region we are talking about.  

HIndi1

So why then the emotional reactions about Shah’s statement. In the year 1978, I remember that in Bangalore we had shared a taxi for a tour with two couples, one Tamil and the other Kannada. We communicated with each other in English. What Shah has suggested, instead of English, why not Hindi? It is just a suggestion; does it amount to imposition? Central Government has offices in all the states and Hindi day is celebrated in each office, irrespective of which state it is. What is the point in looking at every statement from a political angle? Are elections the only important aspect in life? Kashmir had even more serious issues due to decisions taken by Britishers. But the government has resolved it in one stroke. Rules and regulations must be enforced but culture? No way, but who is forcing the culture? A statement made at a function was not a policy declaration. 

Culture seeps on its own. Let us look at the airports. A large number of people travel by air these days. For some reason, almost all CISF personnel are Hindi speaking individuals. You got to any airport from Chennai, Kochi, Vizag to Guwahati. They communicate many times in Hindi, but nobody objects to that. Idli-Dosa is the South Indian staple food, but it is almost becoming national food. You are out and want to have some food quickly. You go to Idli-Dosa joint in any city, and you are out in 20 minutes. Even Mcdonalds has not been able to penetrate their market. Has anyone made it compulsory to eat Idli-Dosa? Hindi films is another medium which merges cultures beautifully! When Shah Rukh dances to the tune of Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, the whole of India likes it, not only Tamils or Malayalis 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lungi+dance+video+youtube&view=detail&mid=4AAD8BE78B35602C090E4AAD8BE78B35602C090E&FORM=VIRE 

The so-called resistance to Hindi is in the Sothern States of India. Script for these languages is quite different compared to Hindi. But the alleged differences are historical as India became India for the first time in 1947! For reasons already discussed, these differenopinions were natural, and people thought that Hindi was being imposed on them. I will share one example which indicates the complexity due to the technological changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. The regional languages naturally could not keep pace with technological changes. The onslaught of technology was felt by German, French, Spanish and Chinese too! English has come back strongly and has now almost become a global language, thanks to Computerisation!  

The way languages world over are facing the issue,  our regional languages also faced the same problem. These languages cannot cope up with the technological changes. But WhatsApp and Facebook have facilitated all local languages to be used for communication. Thereby the feared obscurity of the languages is gone. Now people chat in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu; and many other languages. Those who are English educated but know the mother tongue, use the Roman script to communicate in their language! “Barobar ahe na?” (Am I right?) I wrote Marathi in the roman script. So, nobody is going to kill local languages.  

How rich the regional languages will remain, depends on people using itAfter all most people “think” in the mother tongueDon’t worry too much. Tyre repair guy will be mostly Anna from Kerala! Idli-Dosa guy will be from Udupi! Recently I have observed that in the construction business, Bihari workers in Pune are being replaced by those from Bengal. In the hospitality industry, we see many ladies from North-East states working in large cities and even in distant hill stations like Mahabaleshwar. But mind you, most of them are conversant with the local language when their stay is long enough, but they also know Hindi!  

One thing we should never forget that language richness, quality and type changes with era. What was considered classic when I was in school, does not appear so today. The same thing is true with songs and movies too! Yesteryears classics seem a bit naïve today! Today’s generation loves today’s classics better than classics of my school daysThere is nothing wrong in that; tastes changevalue system changes! 

So friends, don’t get excited and start slanging matches; don’t begin your protests. Go and see a Hindi movie or a Tamil movie! You will love it! Nation’s unity is more important, not the regional language! 

New RTO regime and Indian psyche!

From 1st September 2019 Government of India started applying modified rules and regulations to people breaking laws on Indian roadsRTO is road transport organisationIndians as a society have remained fixated to oldtime India when bullock-carts or walking was the primary mode of going from place A to place B. There have been laws and rules even before 1st September 2019, but the fines and punishment had not been modified with changing times. To give you a better perspective of the penalties, I will share some information. I paid Rs 110/ as my term fee for engineering course. A new car would cost 8 to 10 thousand rupees. The year was in early ’70 s of the last centuryNow I am told that the fees are rupees one hundred and fifty thousand and the new car costs in the region of Rs five hundred thousand. But the fines for breaking laws remained Rs one hundred to Rs five hundred. 

I am writing this blog with real anguish and frustration about our brethren’s views about these changes. Not one person has openly said that he entirely agrees with what the Government has done. We always talk about our fivethousand-year-old culture, of which we are rightly proud. But any system needs to change with time. It needs to be modified as we move forward. We talk about having fantastic places from snowclad mountains, to beaches, to forests in India! Why many small countries still attract more tourists than India? Reasons are simple and obvious. No area in India looks neat, organised and modern. By these words I do no talk of shining new skyscrapers, I am not talking of gleaming Metros or buses. I mean that we do not have a disciplined society, people and systems! Our cities look archaic and chaotic. 

cyclestand2

It was always said that the government has been too weak; there is too much corruption at the lower level. How can we ever change? We had the same attitude about the Kashmir issue. When the British left India in 1947, they created a big mess which continued till 5th August 2019. The similar mess could continue till 31st August on our roads. With low fines, poor implementation of laws, Indian road traffic has been chaotic to talk generously. But the government took decisive and bold steps. 

With new laws, there will be fear in the mind of people. Even if the police continue to take bribes, because of the high level of fines“settlement” will be expensive! Many educated people have suddenly started feeling about poor people who will have to pay the hefty fines, which may also include confiscation of vehicles. When I argued with people why worry about hefty fines, people should not break the rules! People have no answers or have lame replies.  

Kashmir situation and Indian road situations are very similar. A similar situation was present in the building/construction industry too! The sector was breaking the rules at every stage, cheating customers with impunity. They were getting away with murder, figuratively. With the introduction of RERAit ensured that the industry follows laws or else! In Delhi NCR area before RERA introduction, 2/3 large construction companies cheated almost hundred thousand people; they took advance money and never gave them homesThe directors and promoters of these companies are now in jail.  

Indian roads and automotive users are breaking basic laws without any fear. Entering from the wrong direction in one-way streets, parking vehicle below the No Parking boards, driving Motorcycles on footpaths is common sight. I have seen young gentlemen throwing five hundred rupees note at the policeman who caught them.  

Pune is a unique city where socalled intellectuals are born with an extraordinary brain. It is the only city in India where people are formally demanding to cancel the helmet usage rule for two-wheelers. The demand is led by a trained engineer who has lived in the US for about 15 years. Statistically, it is proven that when the helmet is worn, in 90 % cases death is avoided, if an accident takes placeBut the counterargument is, it is our life! (Extraordinary brain!)  

Now the fines are so hefty that once the stories of penalties and punishment start trickling down, people will think ten times before casually breaking the law. Some people on our WhatsApp group are arguing differently. It is group of engineering college batchmates who have seen the world and done well in life. The government which cannot give potholefree roads, good traffic signals has no moral rights to punish people for breaking the rules. Are you entering the wrong direction on oneway entry road because of pot-holesIs it due to bad traffic signals? Are you driving your motorcycle on foot-path for these same reasons? Are you going helmetless on two-wheelers for these reasons? 

These two are independent subjects and need to be discussed separately. By all means, agitate against these issues. Make sure your non-performing representative loses the next electionBut here again, there is a problem. Who has time to go for voting every five years? Is it not easy to simply break the traffic rules 

Friends, we have no justification for our acts whatever you may argue. Some years backour flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai was announced with a request to allow passengers using wheelchair to board first. It took ten minutes for the airport staff to literally push away people who were not allowing wheel-chair bound passengers to board first. 95% of the passengers were Indians. What were we protesting against at Frankfurt airport 

Since last two days, there is road repair work on the street where my daughter lives in MontrealBoards are saying, “No parking from 7 am to 7 pm.” Never saw a single car parked there during this period.  I am not saying people don’t break the rules in other countries, but the percentage of such people is minimal.  

On one side in India, we have the Lutyens gang, the liberals who protest against anything done by the government. When courts gave death punishment to a terrorist, many years back, there were protests about human rights. When Kashmiri youth were pelting stones at the soldiers, there were protests when pellet guns were used. There were no protests against stone-pelting. Pakistan based terrorists made attacks in Kashmir; objections were raised if terrorists were killed but not when soldiers were killed. Kashmir used to be under lock-down for to 3 months at a time due to strikes made by people against some actions taken by the government. Now after 5th August, there is a government lock-down and liberals are protesting.  

Some of the mainstream leaders have made statements against the government act about article 370India is a democracy; we have rights to protest. But these people could have protested against the method used, the procedure followed during this act. But when Pakistan was following the doctrine of 1000 cuts against India, nobody complained much, in fact, they challenged the retaliations made by the Indian government.  

To me, all such people are hollow people; these are vain people. When the government does not act, blame them correctly. But finally, when the government acts, they are now saying, old things were better. Rules from the times of bullock cart days were the best. In Pune, I have observed that the traffic jams are mainly due to indisciplined driving habits of the people.  

One day, I was taking a right turn at a signal at Nal Stop Chowk in Pune. Suddenly, about 20 two-wheeler riders decided that they were too much in a hurry and simply drove through the red signal; the policeman was standing near the signal naturally could not react! Is it not a classic case to reduce fines back to 50 and hundred rupees?  

You naysayers, please look at your face in the mirror first and then show the mirror to someone else. How many of us can say, by putting a  hand on our heart, that I have never broken any basic traffic rule?  

This is a random photo, taken today,  of the street which is being repaired in Montreal in front of my daughter’s home!

cyclestand1

I have only one item on my bucket list. To see people in India follow basic rules in public in general and traffic in particular! Jaihind