Please listen to me!

 

arguments4Argumentative Indian is a book by Nobel Prize-winning author, Amartya Sen.

The Argumentative Indian has brought together a selection of writings from Sen that outline the need to understand contemporary India in the light of its long argumentative tradition. The understanding and use of this argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India’s democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.

So far so good. But do we deserve to be allowed to argue? I have observed that in the public domain sometimes discussions are done for the sake of discussion. The level of such talks has reached the nadir; speakers have literally reached below the belt, pun intended. A male candidate talking about a female opposition member has made a statement, “I never knew that she was wearing a khaki chaddi (underwear) all these days.” Can one make an argument worse than this one?  Unfortunately, such statements are appreciated by their followers; nobody questioned the candidate while he spoke such vile words.

I am all for freedom of speech, but I would never like to live in an emergency like situation, nor would I like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Everybody loves to argue, but it appears that the art of argument is lost at the altar of the new God, social media. The problem is that even in the public domain, the arguments done in Loksabha or Rajyasabha are more about personal attacks on each other from the ruling as well as opposition parties. Logical speeches are a rarity these days.

Another observation is that social media has created world-class commentators, in thousands. Everybody comments on politics, Indian cricket team selection, whether Priyanka Chopda is pregnant or not! Not only that but there are big fights shown on TV under the names like “Big Fight”, and the same gets reflected on WA groups. On Facebook, people write essays about how Modi is wrong or how Rahul Gandhi does not know anything. It is possible that the writer in every person is waking up, thanks to cell phone and easy to use keyboards in all languages.

About political arguments, the older you become rigid are your views. So on WA groups fighting tooth and nail about your point of view does not make sense. I have known of a few cases where childhood relationships became tense because of such arguments. Another important aspect we forget is that it is not worth fighting on issues on which we have no control. People take Alcohol; some like whisky and some like to drink wine. Some are fond of Beer, and some are Vodka fans. Of course, there are some teetotallers. Is it right that teetotaller calls others drunkards? Can teetotallers be called conservatives? Each person has his/her own way of living life; we should respect the views.

I recently read a poem धूप में घोडे पर बहस (Arguments about a Horse) by Kedarnath Singh. It is fascinating to understand how the poet has looked at the word बहस (argument or discussion).

Three friends were sitting in the Sun (must be winter time) discussing a horse. The first one said that the horse is lovely and the second friend added that the horse is sturdy! The third one said that if the horse is so sturdy then we should not even discuss it. The first friend shouted, “What do you mean we can’t discuss”? The second one said, “Of course, we can discuss.” The third friend looked pleased as he blew the cigarette smoke and said, “But where is the horse?” First one said, “So what if the horse is not there, we can always discuss about him.” The second one said, “I have never seen a horse in ages.” The third one said, “The population of horses is reducing fast”. The second one said, “Why is the population reducing?” The first one said, “That is because horses are being sold.” Now it is immaterial which friend said what. Just enjoy the arguments. “Who buys so many horses?” “We can get this number from somewhere!” “Why, why we can not get the numbers?” Then the first one whispered, “God knows what these numbers will reveal?” Finally, the third one shouted as if coming out of a trance, “Friends, one day we will know the correct numbers and the real story will come out.” After this statement, there was pin-drop silence for a long time. How did Kedarnath know that this will be the future quality level of arguments?

Inferior is the quality of arguments that we have on TV channels and social media. Subjects may be essential for discussion, but the treatment and direction given to subjects are abysmal, sometimes the arguments are nasty. The title of the blog “Please listen to me” is ironical. The word please is never used in discussions these days. In public domain people do and say anything to earn some brownie points.

What is an argument? There are many definitions of arguments, but I have chosen a couple of them.

  • a reason given for or against a matter under discussion
  • an angry quarrel or disagreement

The argument is a way of life and is used at home, in business, in education, in research besides many other areas. While arguing both sides are expected to be professional and polite, giving respect to each other. In science, the argument is put forth in trying to prove something new which may be compared with an existing method, process or a product. By arguing, different points of view come forward. The idea is to discuss and find the best possible solution or resolution to issue being discussed. But every time it may not be an issue. When two people from opposing political parties argue, they are putting their thoughts in front of us and are trying to prove how their party or candidate is better than the other.

I feel that the maturity, dignity, and style are more important while arguing. Shouting match starts when nobody has a better argument, or it reflects on that person’s culture! The discussion should be talking about the chosen subject matter and  unparliamentary words should never be used.

In a housing society committee except for the head, all were young people. This head used to shout to prove his points. In the first meeting after I joined the committee, this person started shouting to prove his point. I told him to speak normally, but he argued that his voice was loud. I told him “Sir, learn to speak softly and then speak, otherwise you need not to speak.” After this incident, he never shouted again.

arguments1

Now regarding the arguments/ shouting match on social media, above mentioned rules should be followed more rigidly. The groups that are formed are for a specific reason. The groups can be an alumni group, office groups, ex-office groups, society group, and many more. But all these people come together because of a specific reason. On such groups, one should not make unnecessary political arguments; these are uncalled for and counterproductive. For those who are politically minded, should form a separate group and keep on doing what they feel is right. My observation is that all groups 90 to 95% are not interested in such arguments.

Kedarnath Singhji has found it long back the way people argue. He has explained it in a light-hearted manner. So, let us go by his advice and suggestions, refrain from arguing on social media and if you are in an argument, use the word “Please”! Let me assure you good arguments are fun, and they are enjoyable, if done the right way!

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Work Life Balance!

When I was in school, I used to come to Pune during holidays to my grandfather’s house. He had perfect Work-Life balance in those days. He retired before I was born. But from what I have heard, he used to go to office around 9 and be back home by 4.30. He was one of the luckier persons who had a steady job. When I started going to Pune, he had just started his retired life and would go to sleep by 7 in the evening and wake up at 4! Before going to sleep he used to listen to local news on radio, which would start at 7 pm. All others at home would have dinner by 8 pm and simply go to sleep by 8.30 pm. Cozy life, lovely life; there was nothing to do anyway. There was no TV, going for movies was rarity.  

This reminds me of Gulzarji’s lines 

अब दिन रातपे ही आके रुकता है 

मुझे याद है… 

पहले एक शाम भी हुआ करती थी 

Lifestyle has taken a tumble of 180 degrees since those days. Things have reached the other extreme, discussions have started on Work-life balance, which is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. Why has this imbalance come in our life? Who is responsible? Do managements expect too much from employees? Is work being done with the help of less number of people? On home front, families have become nuclear, both husband and wife are working, and it has become a norm. There is less support system available from elderly. We have too many commitments on social front, too much time is “productively” spent on social media.    

Times have changed, work pressure on individuals has gone up. Pressure to perform is nothing new, it was always there and it will be always there. Why does the imbalance take place? It is simply because we have 24 hours in a day to do so many things. It is how productively we use that time which is important.  

First and foremost is the travel time. Home to workplace travel time is the most unproductive and tiring time. People these days travel anything between one to 2 ½ hours one way, to work. Traffic is going to become more complex and heavy, so there may not be respite from traffic. But yes, there is a solution. When people take up a new job in a different city, they rent a house as near to work place as possible. But in your own city you probably own a house or have been living in an area from childhood. So, you don’t want to change the house.  Solution, cut the emotion, be a little open minded about shifting to stay near the work place, be pragmatic. I was talking about this issue with my young friend Abhay.

Abhay rues that his generation has all the material stuff but no time to enjoy it. He said that if he moves to stay near his work place, he will save two hours every day! Multiply by 250 days. 500 hrs a year. It is as good as getting 50 days of additional leave to be with the family, maybe hit the gym, which today is not possible today. I told Abhay, after shifting near office, don’t spend additional two hours at office. Deepti wanted to take a new office. I suggested to her that it should not be more than 3 kms from her home, she had that option. Now her total travel time is 15 minutes. Hours gained, anxiety reduced? I don’t think you need any consultant to evaluate value addition done by making these changes. If you have financial need, rent out the “owned” flat. 

Now about the most unproductive thing! Social media. FB and WA are the biggest culprits causing the imbalance. Everybody wants to look at the cell phone at every opportunity available. Waiting for the red signal to turn green, open the device. You are doing serious work in office, you get a ding or a dong, ting or a tong! You stop the work to at least send a message, “I will come back to you”! Heavens are not going to fall if you don’t reply. Of course, friends may think that you have died since you did not respond in 30 seconds.  

Social Media has changed the society in such a way that there is fear in the minds of mafia that they may lose out to Social Media cartel. Take a back-seat Heroin’s, and ganjas of this world. You cannot compete with us! Smoking? What is that? I can have my new drug on my person all the time, police are not going to arrest me for that, parents are not bothered (they themselves are busy with addiction), lovers tiff no way. Why are you not talking to me? You don’t love me anymore. Did you see my new necklace? These words are passé! Both are busy looking at their own screens, looking into each other’s eyes? No way. Looking into his or her screen, yes of course. Did you see this video? Did you read this quote? Recently I saw photo of a group of friends, who met for chit chat! All were looking at their cell phone! Chatting? No way!  

To manage the Work Life balance, another thing we should analyze is how much time we are spending on social media. 2 hours, four hours? How many free hours do we have after deducting time for work, travel, sleep, and day to day chores? Do you want most of the waking time to be spent on social media? In fact, we are cutting into family time, sleeping time, causing sleep deprivation, or even  going out time. Your mind is never into what you are actually doing!  

Not in the distant past, a cranky child was given a pacifier in his mouth. Now the child is given a cell phone or a tablet to pacify the child. When the child crosses a certain age, the parents start cribbing, “Oh, my child cannot spend a single minute without cell phone”. I have seen mothers looking at WA while feeding a child, not breast feed but regular meal. A child needs a bit of attention and diversion. A song, or a story used to be the name of the game while feeding kids! When the mothers themselves indulge so much in WA/FB what do you expect the child to do?  

When we attempt something differently, it should start with you! Will you remain, away from social media for some time? Will you remain away from kitty parties? I am not saying that you shun these things. Anything in moderation is always good. A Mac Burger once in six months, a glass of wine, a cup of your favourite tea or coffee, for that matter any drink in moderation will always give you joy! Please think in a positive way! If we don’t use social media for some time, is it really going to affect your life?

Work pressures will be there, but can these be 24/7 and 365, no there are never such pressures. I have known of a person who went to US for work for a month, then 2 months and then continued his stay for three months. From there he was told to go to Germany for another three months. There were many problems at his home including illnesses; he should have told his boss that he will travel back after a quick visit back home, at least a couple of times. I don’t think his boss would have said no! But our friend just wanted to shun his home responsibilities. I am so busy syndrome!

Firstly, one has to decide if you really want work life balance! If you want it, there are always ways, you can find your own different methods too! Will will find a way! I forgot to tell you; I have promised Abhay that I will have a cup of tea with him one day, after his son has gone to school and before Abhay goes to office! Five minutes is all Abhay needs to go to office. The other day we went in the area where Deepti lives, we barged in to see her mother. Her mother called Deepti, she came home from office to have coffee with us. Utopia?  

                                                                                                                       

 

 

Five Season’s of Beauty!

There are different ways of naming seasons, people, trees. Seasons in India are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. People are described by their heights, their likes and dislikes. Some are coffee folks and others are tea folks. Some are beer guys or wine folks. Some love whiskey and others like their Vodka or Rum! Some are morning types and others are night owls! Trees are classified as coniferous, perennial, shady and so on. My favorite method of differentiation of people is based on the seasons they like.

Seasons based on Calendar are winter, spring, summer and autumn. In tropical areas the seasons are only two, wet and dry seasons. But in India seasons are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. Monsoon season is very different in India. When did I really start understanding seasons? I was in school maybe 5th grade and one day I needed an umbrella to go to school as I had exams on that day, hence I needed to go to school. This thing had never happened before so when it rained, I simply used to skip school if it rained heavily.

Names of seasons are also used to describe somethings in our life. Winter of discontent, there is a spring in his stride, are some of the terms come to mind. Summer of discontent is another term, that is used. What do these indicate? Winter of discontent indicates that bad days or times are at an end and they change for better, in the form as spring is coming soon! Summer of discontent is the term used when unhappiness or sadness of life is at the peak! Spring in stride indicates the fresh air or exuberance.  The reappearance of robins. The disappearing snow.  The longer hours of daylight. The emergence of flowers.

I started thinking in terms of Indian seasons, am I a summer guy or a monsoon guy or a winter guy. In India, the weather conditions are different in various parts, simply because of hugeness of the country. In summer, we have temperatures nearing 50 deg C in certain areas to minus 10 deg C in cooler climates in winter. Monsoons can bring rains to the tune of 1200 cm in a season. Weather in the country can be moderate to extreme like the human beings. Pune, where I normally live, is known for moderate weather, all the seasons are comfortable. Has that made people in Pune reasonable people? Does extremism or moderation in people happen because of the weather? I think it does. I am talking of general populace and not the wrong kind of people! Wrong kind of people are omni present where ever they want to be, irrespective of seasons or weather.

Summer, for me is lovely Alphonso Mangoes, Sugarcane Juice, Raw Mango Panna a kind of home-made sherbet! In childhood, it also meant school holidays, round the day playing cricket, table tennis and badminton! I used to live in Mumbai in those days. Once in a while there used to be a trip to relatives’ homes in Bombay or sometimes to Pune. That was the farthest we would travel in those days. There were no summer holiday trips to cool climes. Those were outside means of our family. And did I enjoy my trip to Pune by train? Eating Batata Wada (a potato patty) at Karjat!  That used to be the high point of the journey! End of summer also meant excursion to markets with mom to get new school uniforms especially when I out grew the older uniforms! Then of course there would be a trip to stationery shop to buy new notebooks. Followed by a session of covering the notebooks with brown paper, followed by sticking the labels for the names! Of course, there used to an occasional day of punishment when we overdid things! There used to be pinching of small coins from home to drink ice cold lemon sherbet on cricket ground.  But now in golden phase life things have remained more or less same but with one big difference. Diabetes makes things a little bit tricky for Mangoes and Sugar cane juice!

Monsoon in Mumbai and Pune are totally different. Most of the monsoon, one could manage without an umbrella in Pune! In Mumbai, many times it hardly mattered whether you wore a raincoat or had an umbrella; you would get drenched. Weather in Pune in Monsoon would bring a bit of chill but in Mumbai you were not sure whether you got drenched in rain or sweat! In Mumbai, going to Marine drive to walk on the sea wall, with heavy rains with heavy rains lashing and sea waves crashing on the wall! Oh, what fun we had! Mumbai’s rain fury is seen to be believed! As the British say, it rains Dogs and Cats in Mumbai, sometimes. Though it is a bit difficult to handle, it should be enjoyed at least once. It should be added to your bucket list. One day, I had pinched some coins from home and it was raining heavily. Heavy rains could sometimes create havoc in Mumbai. This was great opportunity to come home, from school,  ( we used to lie about lack of buses) walking in heavy rains and on the way, going to our favourite restaurant to eat a Dosa! That was the biggest heist in our lives!

Winter, of course is a special season for Pune. Cool breeze, some mist, some fog, everybody going around in their woolens with seniors using mufflers and woolen caps! Drinking hot tea with Salty biscuits at the road side kiosk was equivalent of reaching the heavens! In my younger days, Pune would almost shut down around 7 pm, like it happens in cold climates. I remember that my grandfather used go to sleep at 7 pm! Going up the hills in winter was another of past time in Pune. In all my stay in Mumbai, I was required to wear a sweater may be a few times but in Pune, for 2 ½ months sweater was a must!

Which is my favourite season? Cool climates are what I love the most but then monsoon chill in Pune is also great fun and as temperature don’t go down like in winter. Recently in Switzerland, we were caught in Bern, with reasonably cold weather accompanied by a light drizzle. We were geared for both rain and cold but found it very difficult to handle it!  That is when I realized that I love dry cold and not wet cold! I love winters in Delhi too but these days pollution has made things tough to enjoy. So finally, I am a winter guy, in hot countries!

Folks, there is one season that we forgot! Its season of love! Well, romantic love is what I am talking about. This is one season that never goes away, its beauty never feds!  It has its own low tides and high tides! All the things mentioned above, get turbocharged when you are in the love season! Seasons of nature and season of love merge. The season of love never changes into next season, but has its ups and downs! This has its highs and lows! But how many of us are lucky enough to have season of love in the life, throughout life? Season  of love in life, is a great elixir and is supported by small doses of nectar provided by the natural seasons! Lets get a bit philosophical. Do you have five seasons in your life?

I will share with you a lovely Hindi film song. It talks of natural seasons and the season of Love! Enjoy!

Age is just a number!

Every society has its way of handling age and old people. What does it depend on? Relationships, money, closeness in the family, decide many aspects in life. Of course age is not the only factor, along with age comes the factor of health! If these two combine badly, the situation becomes dicey! In the current scenario where migration is the name of the game, things can be even more difficult; it is not migration to another country but it can be migration to a city from village or to another city, for work! Old are of course left behind!

My observation is that in western society, health permitting, senior citizens do a lot of things independently, without giving too much thought about age. This is probably because many generations have had a large number of senior citizens and are used to handle their own things, financially and otherwise!

In the generation of my grandparents, there was hardly any migration and most of the family continued to live together, many a times in the same house. Household requirements and individual requirements were very low and people survived with low incomes. At a later stage in my grand parents case, I think my father and uncles used to give additional support to them. It was always discussed in those days and even today, that people from that generation were really strong! They had to be! During young age of my grandparents, the life expectancy was so low, that those who were really strong, survived. Large number of people would die of influenza, plague and so on. There were no modern medicines or diagnostics. You catch the dreaded illness and you are gone!

But in today’s times, with Modern medicines, general improved health awareness, you see a lot of senior citizens around, with reasonably good health and in some cases wealth too! That’s a great combination if used properly. You have everything and diminished family responsibilities. So why not use the situation fruitfully? This is right time to start using ones bucket list! It could be books, travel, watching sports events, music events or whatever you have not been able to do in younger age.

In India we consider the age around 70 as old. Old enough to be reading Scriptures, living a contented life, interacting with grandchildren if they are around, maybe go to Mandirs and so on, in short doing nothing! This thought process is changing albeit slowly. Many of my friends in this age group have  become globe trotters, travelling with spouses and certain cases alone. In Western countries thought process about old age is  pretty different, the oldies are quite independent. We as a society should try and emulate good aspects of western thought process.

In last two years on different excursions we met a lady who was 99, travelling alone! Recently we met a 87 year old person again travelling alone. He has travelled to 99 nations in the world. Mind you, the examples I am giving here are all westerners. We have seen people who needed wheel chairs, one young man needed 100% Oxygen support. Yes, in foreign countries the facilities for physically challenged people are superb. That helps but it is the will to do it, will to travel, to explore through the physical challenge. Our group in both cases was predominantly of westerners!

In India our thought process is not very open to such thinking because for the first time, in our history, a large number of fitter & willing senior citizens are around. There is no history of independent senior citizens wandering about. We met an Indian couple, in early fifties, from Mumbai, at Matterhorn in Switzerland; they were kind enough to help us with some photos. While parting, the gentleman made a remark, “Sir, it is creditable that you are doing this journey at your age!” He had a valid point, not many Indians of our age travel internationally in mountains, independently. In the group in which we travelled, we were in middle range of the age group, many were 75 plus!

In general we take our age very seriously and think in terms of “Vanaprasthashrama” (fourth and final stage of life cycle)! Of course we have to be careful that when we travel we do not have any health issues! When we were travelling my wife Jaya had a minor foot injury. Our tour manager suggested, in good faith, that we should avoid mountains so that there is no mishap. But we were careful, reasonably confident ( of course not over confident) and did most of the things that were possible on the tour. We enjoyed the ride on the open deck of double decker cable car at Stanserhorn in Switzerland! Was the weather cold!

DoubleDeckerCableCar

Another thing that happens with the age is that we become a little inflexible with our eating habits. But we always followed the dictum ” Be like Romans when in Rome”! So we did have Pizzas and Pastas and Salads when we were Italy and enjoyed them. Of course “Kartoffelsalat” while we were in Germany! Did we have lovely wines when were in wine country? Of course we did!

What we can do post retirement is dependent on our mind set and openness to try new untried things. Don’t forget that many westerners do come to India where systems, food, weather are quite different for them. They can do it because of the flexibility that they show. You must be wondering why I am giving examples of western world. This is just to explain how differently old age is treated by westerners and what are the joys of this different treatment.

While walking around in Lucern, we had 76 years old Jones from Montreal for company. We saw one Indian restaurant and she said, ” Since you and Jaya are with me, I would like to try Indian food!” We went there and enjoyed the really pleasant food, even by our standards! Only thing I did not manage is to make Jones eat raw onion, the way we eat it! I had also offered to show her how we eat with our fingers but at her request we passed it too! I am sure we also will become more adventurous and try different things! Happy globe trotting folks!