Sunday, February 11, 2018


Disclaimer: I hate taking medicines (chemicals), and have now come to believe that we should not live in discomfort, but should not needlessly take in chemicals too. I also believe that our body gives us indications by way of pain, temperature changes, discomfort, etc., whenever things are not chemically right with it.

I had gone on a short trip to India and had this feeling that something was not right with my body. I called up Dr Lal's path labs and fixed up for a technician to come and collect our blood samples and do all possible tests on it. The tests confirmed the reasons for my uneasiness.

My cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides were too high. The doctor advised me to take Statins and blood thinners to bring the levels down. I had stopped taking all these in 2008, exactly one year after my bypass surgery in 2007. My bypass surgery will be another story, and also why I stopped taking all forms of medicine. I now take chemicals in only to relieve body pains/ discomfort, and antibiotics when needed, and this is very rare, as I am fit, healthy, alive and kicking at 65, nearly 10 years after quitting all medicines for the heart.

I was reluctant to restart them; my wife was keen that I follow the doctor's advice. I asked her for a period of two months to experiment with nature cure, before I started taking in chemicals. It is during the same period that I got a forward on whatsapp on the benefits of garlic on lowering cholesterol.

I started taking one clove of peeled and minced garlic, empty stomach, first thing in the morning with water. I continued this religiously for about 2 months and got another blood test done on 09th February 2018. 

There has been a noticeable drop in all three parameters that were out of sync. In addition, there has been a noticeable improvement in my bowel movements ever since I started with this one clove of garlic; my bowels have always been an issue all my life.

The whatsapp forward had mentioned that one must start with one clove and increase it to two cloves once one gets used to it. I have started taking two cloves wef 10th February 2018 and would get a blood test done again on 10th April 2018, and would share the results again. In the meanwhile, I believe that Lahsun therapy works both for blood chemistry as well as bowel movement; the results may be slow, but they are sure, and natural.

Lahsun therapy works. In addition to regulating my bowels perfectly, all vital blood parameters have come down substantially, as follows:
  • Total Cholesterol from 357 to 269; 
  • Triglycerides from 195 to 171; 
  • LDL from 258 to 153. 
  • I was taking only 01 clove for 2 months; recommended is to go to 2 cloves.
Best of luck to all those with the same problem and those who hate taking medicines, like me.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Listening to the TV debates these days, it seems that every citizen is well aware of their rights. I never see any one talking about their duties, or responsibilities, towards the nation. At the slightest pretext, every person, especially politicians, start quoting the constitution and making a loud noise about their rights being infringed by the government. Some of them mislead people about the absolute nature of their rights. None of them ever talk about their duties towards preserving our country as a unified composite culture, which is proud of its rich heritage.

I feel every citizen should be aware of their rights, as also their duties towards the country. The duties are enumerated as Article 51A of the Constitution, and are reproduced below. 


51A. It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its
ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the
National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which
inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity
and integrity of India;

(d) to defend the country and render national
service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India
transcending religious, linguistic and regional or
sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory
to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our
composite culture;

(g) to protect and improve the natural
environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild
life, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism
and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure

(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of
individual and collective activity so that the nation
constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and

2[(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide
opportunities for education to his child or, as the
case may be, ward between the age of six and
fourteen years.]
1 Ins. by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, s. 11 (w.e.f. 3-1-1977).
2 Ins. by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, s. 4 (w.e.f. 1-4-2010).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


I was taught as a child that words are very powerful, and should be used with care. As a child, I generally stuck to this advice. However, somewhere down the line, while growing up, I seem to have forgotten this advice and started to use words as they came to my mind. I always spoke my mind, without caring for the words that came out of my mouth. I started to feel that words had no power, even though many a times I could see them affecting others around me... adversely or positively. My parents had taught me the Gayatri Mantra as a child. As a child I could overcome any problem by just reciting this wondrous mantra. I had never questioned the power of this mantra, but as I grew up, doubts began to form in my mind about how a mantra could be powerful... rationality had started to overtake faith, until....... 

One day in 1995. A Swami from the Ramakrishna mission had been invited to speak to the Army officers from the Madras Regiment in the staff college auditorium. We were also extended the invitation, which was of course voluntary, as the fauj believes in being religion neutral. During this talk the Swamiji was trying to explain to all of us the power of the word 'Om'. Looking at our faces, he decided to give us an example about the power of the word. This example had a profound impact on me. He said......

"Suppose you are at home and the telephone rings. You pick up the receiver and the person on the other side asks you if you are so-and-so. On your saying 'yes', he tells you, 'I am calling from xyz hospital and I am sorry to inform you that your father is no more'. What happens? You break down, and start to cry. A little later the phone rings again. The same person is on the line again. He says, 'I called you a little while ago and gave you some bad news. I am extremely sorry but that news was incorrect - it was not your father who expired, it was the person on the bed next to your father who expired. Sorry again'. You suddenly feel relieved and the sadness vanishes immediately". 

After narrating the above story, he asked us a rhetorical question. "What had transpired - nothing but a few words, and these little words had the power to change you completely". This example has stayed with me - it always reminds me that words are potent as they are the expression or containers of ideas, emotions, feelings and can affect people to think, speak and act in many different ways and thus should be used with care.

The power of words can also be judged from one word, 'Swaraj'. A very simple word indeed - 'self rule'. It was, and is, a very positive word and had the power to transform the minds of millions of Indians; who thought of this possibility, spoke about it, wrote about it and then got together to act against the British rule, eventually leading to the independence of India.

Every word is a container of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and more. Positive words can have a very positive impact and negative words can be very damaging - these are also not easily forgotten. Have you ever been publicly praised or ridiculed in front of co-workers, family or friends? If yes, have you forgotten it? Never would most likely be your answer. That then is the power of words. Many years later, the thought of such an ordeal can still bring up the same emotions that one felt then.

I somehow am very averse to negative thoughts and words and try to stay away from people who are prone to use them - negativity can, and is damaging. 

We Indians are probably a unique people. We all love our motherland dearly, and are at a loss as to why we are the way we are as a nation; we criticise everything; we call it constructive criticism. However, I believe constructive criticism would focus on 'how' to improve, rather than on 'what' is wrong with us. We all know what is wrong - corruption, poverty, politicians, illiteracy, etc. Even when some good happens we the people, our politicians, our media and bloggers generally ignore it, and instead focus on 'what could have happened' or only on the negative aspects of the good that happened. We conjure up negative thoughts, which get translated to negative words, and negative actions, and this eventually leads to an endless chain of negativity. 

Can we instead build an endless chain of positive thoughts and words about our country. We blame our politicians and our bureaucrats for the state of affairs in our countries. I do agree that most of the ills can be rightfully attributed to them, but we must also remember that our politicians and bureaucrats are a miniscule part of the 1.28 billion that we are. How can we blame all of our ills on them then; some part of the ills would surely need to rest on our shoulders too.

What then is the way forward. We need to change for the better; when we change, change would happen automatically in every facet of our country - including our politicians. Let us think and speak positively about our country and see the transformation in every thing around us. Let's believe in the power of the word, and try it for a change. We have nothing to lose.

Do you agree?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Let us help Build a New India

Every day I use/ need the following things to live my life
  • Food items that include vegetables, milk, wheat atta, rice, curds, lentils, salt, sugar, ghee, masalas, etc to name just a few.
  • Medicines 
  • Television programmes
  • Internet facilities
  • Highway/ Road infrastructure
  • Railway trains and infrastructure
  • Bridges on rivers
  • Schools/ Colleges/ Universities
  • Cars/ Scooters/ Bicycles/ Buses
  • Town administration, which includes policing and public utilities like water, electricity, garbage collection, sewerage facilities and disposal, etc.
  • Newspaper
  • Domestic help
  • Communication facilities like landlines/ cell phones
  • Petrol/ Diesel pumps
  • LPG supplies
  • Consumer durable items likes refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, etc.
  • Parks/ Open spaces
  • And much much more
I buy/ am provided all this from the market/ by the different levels of government/ private/ public companies.

My life would be incomplete without these services being provided to me. Never have I even bothered to find out the religion of the person who provides me some, or all these; all I know is some human being like me is providing them.  

My religion is only important to me, and to every other human being too, when I wish to have a personal moment with my Creator; it has nothing to do with my worldly needs.

This being so how come there is so much noise in India about religion. A human being is killed and the reaction of our political system is based on the religion of the person killed. 

Can politics only be a win-lose equation?

Can't we have a political discourse which is win-win, where every human being who is a citizen wins? How can it come about? 

I believe it can only happen when people are not swayed by emotive issues, but rely more on worldly issues that are common to all human beings, like some of them listed above. Religion has no role there.

Let us discard pseudo-secularism and become really secular in our thoughts, words, and actions while voting. 

We hold the key. A large segment of our citizenry is not as lucky as us; let us do our part to do our part in nation building by speaking with all those we come in contact with. 

Every drop makes the ocean - do you agree?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Original Constitution of India, and Us

Many a times I feel despondent at the way things are going on in our country these days. I was born in a free India; an India that was recovering from the trauma of partition on religious lines; Pakistan had been carved out of India, based on the religion of the majority population. Inspite of Hindus being the majority in this part of the land, India decided to continue with its secular tradition. In contrast, Pakistan chose religion to be the basis of its new nation state. This was a great folly as in 1971 it was proven that religion cannot be the glue that can bind a people in to one nation state; East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan to form an independent nation, Bangladesh. It was thus clear that religion cannot, and should not, be the basis of a modern nation state.

I find that most people of our country have been/ and are being polarised by our political class on religion, caste, creed, ethinicity, etc. This art of 'divide and rule' had been perfected by the British during their rule in India. However, this British legacy has been very finely tuned by their inheritors, the Congress party, after departure of the British from India. The Congress has thus been directly responsible for subverting the spirit of our Constitution; a spirit of secularism that believes in treating every one as an equal citizen. The successive Congress governments of free India hardly paid any heed to the provisions made in the Constitution, but kept creating vote banks out of the lower castes and religious minorities. Reservations, and other temporary and the transient provisions, were used freely to pander to the just and unjust demands of their vote banks; the aim was not in the best interests of these very same people, but mostly used for winning elections. 'Garibi hatao' was a slogan that remained a slogan, as wealth is needed to remove poverty, and the systems did not permit generation of wealth. The entrepreneurial spirit of the people of India was slowly but surely killed over the years by our taxation and licence raaj system. The more determined and ambitious entrepreneurial people left the country, starting with the 60s; a trend that has not abated even till date.

In due course this art of 'divide and rule' was learnt by the regional leaders too, who could fine tune things much better at the state level, knowing the caste, sub caste and religious equations much better at the state level. Thus in due course, Congress fell behind in the states, and had to make do with playing a supporting role to the regional parties, in state elections. Corruption and 'family and friends' centred politics started to dominate the national scene. It did not take the knowledge of rocket science to understand that in due course some party would come on the scene that would espouse the cause of the majority community citizens, and use the opposite of 'divide and rule' as its election strategy; that of uniting the Hindus. The BJP arrived with just that aim, and their aim was to unite all of the majority population, irrespective of castes/ sub castes. They knew that the majority population comprised about 80% of the population, a large portion of which had unspoken angst against the working of the governments, thus far, especially in the aftermath of the Shah Bano case judgement.

The consolidation of Hindus started with the rath yatra undertaken by Advani. The BJP never looked back thereafter. The BJP needed something bigger now to capture the imagination of all Indians, and this was reflected in their new secular slogan of, "Sabka saath, sabka vikaas", under the dynamic leadership of Modi, who had a proven track record as CM of Gujarat. Gujarat had been, until his CMship, a state that had countless religious riots, sometimes more than once a year. Gujarat became a peaceful state, after the 2002 riots, with no religious riots thereafter; a fact that every citizen acknowledged, irrespective of beliefs. Governance and development in terms of 'bijli, paani, sadak' became the hallmark of Gujarat, and every citizen of the country acknowledged that.

The people of India were also by now fed up of 'divide and rule' politics of all the regional satraps, as also the Congress brand of 'family and friends' politics coupled with heavy 'coalition compulsions' and its free rein to corruption. They elected the BJP to power in the centre, and now in most of the states in India. There is now great resistance being put up by the old guard of politicians from the Congress, Communists, BSP, SP, RJD, etc and the left leaning journalists/ intellectuals to the change that is being brought about by the BJP in the way doing things. The BJP juggernaut is not halting, and all the opposition parties are uniting to defeat the BJP. It is a no holds barred contest and no institution of the country is being spared, because the stakes are too high for the 2019 elections. In case the Congress loses again, then Congress would perish forever from the national scene, unless they introspect and re-invent themselves in line with the Constitution - a document that accepts the reality of India, as it has been, and as it should be. The Constitution confers equal citizenship to all citizens, and gives equal rights and responsibilities to all its citizens. It also envisaged a Uniform civil code (UCC), so that all citizens could be treated equally, and 'rule of law' would be equally applied to all.

This visionary constitution is also one of the things that holds us together, besides our national flag, and our national anthem. There are voices against UCC as it considered an infringement on their religious 'Shariat' law. This is very selective, as the same Muslims do not wish Sharia to be applied in criminal cases. They want to follow IPC for criminal cases and Sharia for civil cases. There are also voices today that do not wish to stand for our national anthem, and all in the name of belief and personal freedom. I wish to inform these very same people as to what is guaranteeing them this freedom - it is only our Constitution that protects them from people who given the freedom will summarily lynch them for such an act.

I wanted to understand the thoughts in the minds of our founding fathers, on the way India should shape up as a country, when they wrote this brilliant Constitution. Our constitution is a live document that captures the essence of our heritage, as also the guiding force for our growth as a modern nation state. I wanted to understand what our founding fathers considered important from our long history, as a sub continental civilization; something that we could all rightly be proud of, and which could be the binding foundation for all Indians irrespective of caste, creed, religion, or ethnicity; something that we could all relate to as citizens.

The internet is a vast repository of information and it came to my rescue. I was lucky to have found photo evidence of what the original framers of Constitution had in mind when they signed this document. My research brought out the following.

The original book had 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Constitution of the Republic of India, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, after being approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The original of this elaborate edition took nearly five years to produce. It was signed by the framers of the constitution, most of whom are regarded as the founders of the Republic of India. "The original of the book is kept in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Parliament of India. The illustrations represent styles from the different civilizations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was illuminated by Nandalal Bose and other artists, published by Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the Survey of India Offices".

"At the beginning of each part of the Constitution, Nandalal Bose has depicted a phase or scene from India's national experience and history. The artwork and illustrations (22 in all), rendered largely in the miniature style, represent vignettes from the different periods of history of the Indian subcontinent, ranging from Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley, the Vedic period, the Gupta and Maurya empires and the Mughal era to the national freedom movement. By doing so, Nandalal Bose has taken us through a veritable pictorial journey across 4000 years of rich history, tradition and culture of the Indian subcontinent".

"The Vedic period is represented by a scene of gurukula (forest hermitage school) and the epic period by images from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Then there are depictions of the lives of the Buddha and Mahavira, followed by scenes from the courts of Ashoka and Vikramaditya. There is a beautiful line drawing of the Nataraja from the Chola bronze tradition".

"Other important figures from India's history include Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Tipu Sultan, and Lakshmibai. The freedom movement is depicted by Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi march and his tour of Noakhali as the great peacemaker; Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose makes an appearance too. Scenes of the Himalayas, the desert and the ocean are also included".

"The original handcrafted Constitution of India was exquisitely designed and executed. The fine calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizada using a holder and nib (nib no. 303). He did not charge any fee for this work".

"In Shantiniketan, along with his students, Nandalal Bose completed the art work. The "Preamble" page was done by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha. Another Kala Bhavan artist associated with the artwork was Kripal Singh Shekhawat from Rajasthan, who after returning to his home state, subsequently went on to revive Jaipur blue pottery from near extinction".

"Many pages of the Constitution are embellished with highly stylised decorative borders, headers and backdrops. The complex patterns in the borders and in the front and back covers, embossed in gold on leather, are reminiscent of the Ajanta murals".

In essence the Constitution does not talk of religion at any stage. Rama and Krishna are part of our heritage and should not be interpreted in narrow religious terms. They are a part of the 'epics' of this revered land; their lives being the guiding philosophies of the secular inhabitants of this land, much before other practiced monotheistic religions came in to existence. So, all inhabitants, irrespective of their present beliefs should take them as part of our common heritage rather than as religious symbols of just the modern Hindus.

We, as citizens, have equal rights and responsibilities, as enumerated in our constitution. We have a responsibility to consciously elect only those people who are willing to work as per our enlightened secular constitution, and not those who believe in 'divide and rule' by which they promise to give us more than the 'other' citizens, based on our voting for them. Jats, Patels, Muslims, Dalits, Lingayats, etc are all the caste/ religion combinations that work in the favour of 'divide and rule' politicians; beware of them. Vote as citizens for a better India of our dreams, not as minority/ majority/ reservation aspirants. Jai Hind.

Do you agree?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Is the Congress on a Suicidal course?

The BJP has been gaining ground all across India, partly because of the appeal of its tallest leader today, PM Narendra Modi, and his agenda of 'sabka saath, sabka vikaas' and his focus on giving an identity and financial access to the poor and underprivileged of India. However, the other reason that is sharply coming in to focus these days is the negative agenda of the Congress, the principal opposition party. The Congress thinks that the only job of the opposition is to oppose the government on every issue, whether internal or external.

The Congress leadership is totally confused on how to counter the BJP juggernaut that is on a winning streak in election after election, and at every level of functioning, be it panchayat, municipal, or state. Congress is thus found fumbling in their responses to the government's initiatives, as well as to the BJP's agenda. It has done a series of flip flops on major issues that are common knowledge with the people of India, thanks to the information age. The latest rounds of criticism of the PM and his government in Bahrain and now when the PM is in Davos, is in real bad taste and speaks poorly of their leadership, especially when the whole world is applauding the PM and the direction of his reform agenda.

  • "Dear PM, Welcome to Switzerland! Please tell DAVOS why 1% of India's population gets 73% of its wealth?  I'm attaching a report for your ready reference," he tweeted.

Discordant notes from within the country are okay, if there is some substance in the issue. Criticism for the sake of criticism is not going to benefit the Congress party in any way; it is actually putting people off now, since the Congress has been responsible for all our ills that they are so aggressively pointing out these days. The BJP throws the ball squarely back to the Congress for neglecting to do these things under the Nehru - Gandhi years, a total about 49 years out of the 70 years since independence, and rightly asking if what could not be done in 49 years is expected to be done in about 4 years; a logical question.

It would be better if the Congress focused on issues that really matter to the people of this country, rather than focussing their energies on running down the government. The Congress President does ask about job creation, farmer suicides, youth unemployment, etc, at times, but not in a constructive dialogue but more as a tactic to malign the government. In case the Congress is seriously interested in these solvable issues, then they would ask these questions in parliament, for which they would have to allow the parliament to function. It seems that they are not interested in letting the parliament function, for fear that some important bills may get passed, and the government's position may get strengthened even more.

People had revolted against the UPA-2 misrule and corruption, and had thus decided to teach the Congress a lesson in electoral politics, by reducing them to just 44 seats in parliament. Election after election the people are sending messages to the Congress to wake up and start working for the people, but Congress seems to misread the mood of the people and is continuing with its suicidal course. This is a serious issue not only for the Congress but also for the people of India, who deserve a strong opposition; the BJP can only be kept in check by a strong opposition. Will the Congress change course to a positive, 'for the people' agenda or will it continue on its suicidal course?

What is your opinion?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Magic of Sunrises and Sunsets

Skies turn magical when the sun is low over the horizon and there are clouds in the sky. This routine magic is free; all it demands a little time and attention. Don't believe me?

A picture is worth a thousand words.....

Photograph taken at Koh Larn, Pattaya, Thailand

Photograph taken at Koh Larn, Pattaya, Thailand

Photograph taken in Brampton, Canada

Photograph taken at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand

Photograph taken as our ship was docking in at Nassau, Bahamas

Picture taken at Chandigarh, India

Picture taken at International Aviation College, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand

Photograph taken at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand

Monday, January 15, 2018

India - The Need of Our Times

Most successful lawyers are successful because they 'win' cases for their clients; the legal system is so designed, rightly or wrongly, that even one innocent should not get punished, even if the system has to let 99 culprits go scot free for want of the 'right evidence'. How do lawyers win cases - winnable cases are won by bringing out the facts, as clearly and as lucidly as possible. Successful lawyers, at times, even win cases where the case is very weak; they do this by discrediting the evidence, or by discrediting the prosecution witness(es), by reducing their credibility.

Something similar is increasingly happening in India these days. In a diverse country like India, it is worrisome that the BJP juggernaut is winning nearly every election, be it the national, state level, panchayat, or municipal. The entire opposition has no answer to the BJP's election winning streak, except uniting for the wrong reasons, without any agenda to convince the people about their genuine desire to serve the people; the opposition has been so 'family & friends centric' and corrupt that they have lost credibility in the eyes of the majority of the people of India. India needs a strong opposition that can stop the BJP juggernaut. I had blogged about this in March 2017. There is no credible opposition leader, of the calibre of Modi, that the people can trust.

Winning elections, by any party, is only possible if it can convince the people on the merits of their agenda. BJP was elected on the agenda of development, which has been aptly summed up in the statement, 'Sabka saath, sabka Vikaas. The entire opposition has not been able to counter this narrative of the BJP. Instead they have now resorted to what the lawyers do best to win weak/ non winnable cases - discredit the evidence/ witness. 

After every election, the opposition parties find it convenient to blame the Election Commission and the 'faulty EVMs'. Instead of introspecting on the reasons for their losing elections repeatedly, these parties are focusing on bringing down constitutionally created institutions. This is a dangerous precedent. 

Govt of India holds a 'pravasi divas' on 09th January, every year, since 2003. Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) decided to hold a global conference for people of Indian origin in Bahrain this year, starting 06th January. This was inaugrated by the Ambassador of India, and had various speakers from across the political spectrum. Rahul Gandhi was also one of the speakers to the summit. His speech was termed as 'irresponsible' by the BJP. His choice of words and issues in a foreign land were totally uncalled for. It is the people of India who decide on who is to be given an opportunity to govern, not global Indians. He should instead have focussed his efforts in connecting with the grass root level people in his own party, and the people of India. We NEED a strong Congress in the opposition. 

Rahul Gandhi is the President of the principal opposition party; he may be a well intentioned individual, but does not have the political maturity, and needs to be guided on how to even interact with people, let alone on issues facing the nation. His performance on stage in Bahrain was less than self assured; he was being constantly being chaperoned by Sam Pitroda, the man behind the event.

Last week, 04 judges of the Supreme Court, out of a total of 27 have gone public, through a press conference, much against the code of conduct of sitting judges. This should have been an occasion for all political parties to come together and find a solution to this national constitutional crisis. Independent judiciary is the third pillar of our democracy, and needs to be strengthened, not weakened. 

PS: 16 Jan 2017: The judges have since reconciled their differences, and the chief mediator the Bar Council of India has issued a statement to this effect. There were no substantial issues in the press statement given by the 04 judges, and it seems that it would have died a natural death, with the government keeping off the issue, and by calling it an internal matter of the judiciary.

Instead of acting in unison with the government by permitting the crisis to defuse internally, the principal national opposition party was quick to hold a press conference, and decry the 'danger to democracy', even when this issue was not one fit for political exploitation; this being a constitutional crisis, in which every political party should help in defusing the 'dangerous situation' that has been created. The TMC and Communist leaders also joined the 'danger to democracy' band wagon. 

Image: Courtesy Google Images: 4 SC Judges at their press conference

Rahul Gandhi did not stop at this alone, but went on to demand a probe in the death of Justice Loya, which is totally unrelated to the crisis at hand. The son of Justice Loya had to hold a press conference that they have no suspicions about the death of his father, and that this case should not be politically exploited. Did Rahul Gandhi show political sagacity?

Damaging and discrediting constitutional institutions of our country, (like the Election Commission, the Supreme Court, the office of the Prime Minister, and the CBI, etc.),  is a dangerous game of political one upmanship, and can have far reaching negative consequences. The opposition has to build their credibility with the people of India by convincing them that they are 'for the people'. Until the BJP govt came along, it had been governments 'of the people, by the people' but not wholly 'for the people'; it was wholly for family & friends and the inner circle coterie. 

Congress has been reduced to a 'one family' in the top hierarchy of the party; merit or qualifications do not seem to matter, the only thing that matters in Congress today is the last name, and the proximity of the others to the 'high command', which comprises of the family and an inner coterie of advisors; Rahul Gandhi, the 'selected rather than elected' Congress President has no concept of India or Indians, as he does not even understand the issues faced by the poor of India; Congress has lost touch with the citizens, as also with their own grass root level leaders. As a first step the Congress will have to accept this fact; only then can they even start to revitalise their grassroots level leadership. Not only leadership at the grassroots level, but alll other levels of leadership, including at the national level, needs to be elected through popular mandate rather than through farcical elections.

How better can one explain to the Congress that the majority of the citizens are not with them, other than by interpreting the following happenings in India: 

  • The demonetisation exercise led to a lot of hardship on the citizens; the opposition tried their best to incite the people, but to no avail. Despite hardships the people supported the PM, and gave a big thumbs up in the UP election, by voting the BJP to power in an unprecedented victory. 
  • GST was introduced.  It had shortcomings, and hurt the trading community the most. The people of Surat were badly hurt, if one goes by the 'Gujju psyche of aversion to taxes', and yet Surat returned BJP to power in Surat. Why? It is because the citizens do not find another credible leader who is willing to work tirelessly 'for the people', without 'parivar vaad' and corruption. 
The biggest assets of the PM are his ability to work tirelessly; connect with the people; his incorruptibility; and his ability to keep his own family away from, what are commonly understood in India as, the perks of office. Modi has shortcomings too, like all of humans, but his strengths, as seen by the people, far outweigh his shortcomings. His initiatives of Aadhar link has been a God sent for the poor of India - they have now been given an identity for the first time, and have become beneficiaries of schemes that were always designed for them, but never partook of them, due to rampant pilferage/ corruption. Aadhar is a saviour for the poor, but is a thorn in the sides of people with undeclared/ disproportionate wealth, and those who have things to hide - it is thus opposed by the politicians, bureaucracy, most government servants, as also self employed professionals and traders. Aadhar link with bank accounts, and with the subsidy/ welfare schemes are probably the single most important initiatives of this government, where-in the vast majority of poor stand to benefit. These being the strengths of the BJP leader, how can the opposition be strengthened, as a strong opposition is the need of the hour in India.

To better their performance and win elections, which is the need of the hour, as India deserves a strong opposition, the opposition in general and the Congress in particular, will have to stop wasting their time discrediting constitutional institutions,(which every democracy needs to keep the required checks and balances) but more importantly, work at the grass root level so as to re-establish a bond with the common citizens of India.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Japanese Way

We, my wife and I, finally managed to visit Japan in May 2017 - one of two 'before I kick the bucket' items on my wife's list, and also a long held desire within me. This desire had been stoked in 1974, when I was in my early twenties and was posted in Kalaikunda for my fighter training, on the Hunter aircraft. During a party on one night, one of our squadron officer's wife told us that her parents had just returned to Hyderabad, after visiting Japan, during which they had stayed with their 'pen friends' (those were the days, my friend; now we have whatsapp friends) from that country. She told us that her parents had many good things to say about the Japanese people, and the way they do things. I remember asking her to tell us more since I am fascinated by the fact that despite similar design features, we humans are so different, mostly dependent on our history and geography. I have thus always been fascinated to travel around and meet people of different cultures and countries. 

1974: She told us that her parents were staying with their hosts in a multi-storeyed setup with a vacant plot in the immediate neighbourhood. This plot had tomatoes planted, which were tended to by a farmer who lived in the village. My friend's parents had observed that it was the farmer's routine to come to the plot early in the  morning riding on his bicycle, park the cycle there, tend to the plants, and then go to his job by the subway, located close by. This farmer would come back in the evening, tend to the plants, pickup his bicycle and go back home. The plants had tomatoes that were ripe for plucking too. One day it so happened that the household ran out of tomatoes. My friend's mother suggested to the host that they could pluck a few from the plot next door and pay the farmer when he came back in the evening. The host did not agree to this suggestion. Next the lady suggested that they can leave the money and a note on the bicycle stating that they had plucked a few tomatoes, as they had run out of the same in the house. This was countered by the host stating that this could not be done, and that they would have to wait for the farmer to come back in the evening and then go and buy it from him. This story aroused my fascination for the Japanese culture.

Later in 1974: I had gone to Hyderabad for my ejection seat demonstration a few months later and met up with my friend's parents on the Parsi new year celebrations, when I was invited to their home. I asked them about their Japanese experience, and they were all very happy to narrate how you could synchronise your watches with the arrival of the train; the trains never ran late, or early. 

As a matter of fact, in November 2017, I was amused to read that a railway company apologised to the travelling public that their train had left the platform 20 seconds earlier than scheduled. Relevant excerpts of the BBC news dated 16 November 2017 are reproduced below.
  • "A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early. Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they "sincerely apologise for the inconvenience" caused. In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20. Many social media users reacted to the company's apology with surprise. The mistake happened because staff had not checked the timetable, the company statement said."
A Selfie with the Bullet train (Shinkansen) driver

2017: We had taken a one week bullet train (Shinkansen) pass while in Japan, and travelled extensively on these trains at speeds reaching up to 320 kmph. Having traveled, I can understand the above apology in the right Japanese context; 20 seconds, and that too early, is no big deal any where else in the world, but Japanese are different. During my travels I noticed that people were very conscientious, respectful, and orderly. They would form lines to get in to the train; wait for passengers to get off; and then only board. Occupy their seat, recline it to the desired angle, and more importantly leave it straight up before leaving. I noticed an old man do it and thought that it may be the old man's habit. I then started to consciously notice this. Most non Japanese passengers would leave their seats as is, that is in the reclined state itself, whereas all Japanese passengers would consciously leave their seats in the upright position, like they had got it when they came in. Even school kids followed this routine.

Our train pulling out of train station - from 0 to 280 kmph - 2 minute clip

Flashback to 1974: Her parents also told us about the cleanliness, and various other things including their experience at the petrol pump when they had gone to top up their car; not only was their car topped up but the wind screens were cleaned and the car inside's were cleaned too, during the time that the car was being topped up.

1980s: I had got interested in the stock market and had started reading the business magazine, Business India, the only one at that time. I read one particular article that fascinated me and that was about how Japanese car makers like Toyota and Honda graduated from making relatively sub standard cars, which could not compete with the US and German cars like the Fords, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc. I remember reading that one day, bus loads of Honda employees were brought to the Golf course in Tokyo. This golf course was frequented by western diplomats who owned US, and German cars. The employees got off the buses and all they were asked to do was to feel the contours of the German and US cars. The article concluded with what I remember was, "the Japanese car industry never looked back thereafter, and posed a serious threat to US cars on their home turf, the US.

For those interested in the rise of the Japanese car industry the following excerpts of a more researched article by Peter Cheney in the Globe and Mail dated 25 March 2017 would help further in understanding the Japanese way:

  • "In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was hard to see how Japan could rise to the top of the automotive world. After the Second World War, the Japanese car industry was crippled by the destruction of the nation's infrastructure and weak demand. Toyota almost went bankrupt in 1949. In 1950, its production was limited to 300 vehicles. Back then, Japanese car makers were known mainly for their habit of ripping off designs from other manufacturers. Toyota's first passenger car, the 1936 Model AA, was a blatant copy of Dodge and Chevrolet designs, and some parts could actually be interchanged with the originals. 
  • In 1957, Toyota set up a California headquarters that would turn out to be its North American beach head. A year later, the first Toyota was registered in California. By 1975, Toyota was top import brand in the United States, surpassing Volkswagen.
  • Japan's rise to automotive pre-eminence was based on several key strengths, including focus, consistency and detail-oriented engineering. Japanese auto makers were known for producing reliable cars with well-executed details. What they weren't famous for was design flair, innovative marketing and driving passion. Britain was renowned for stylistic masterpieces such as the Jaguar E-Type and the Lotus 49. Germany was the spiritual home of automotive performance, thanks to Porsche and BMW. The United States invented aspirational marketing.
  • But Japan systematically borrowed the best ideas from each of these countries, while simultaneously addressing their weaknesses: Japan replaced Britain's flaky electrical systems with solid, well-engineered products from suppliers such as Nippondenso. 
  • Japan studied Germany's superb mechanical designs and installed them in cars that the average consumer could afford. And Japan borrowed the best parts of Detroit marketing – such as a tiered model system that encouraged buyers to spend more for essentially the same car – but lowered production costs by limiting the range of choices. 
  • In the mid-1960s, a Detroit order sheet could run to a dozens pages or more, creating a logistical nightmare for factories that had to build cars that could be ordered with a nearly infinite mix of colours and options. Japanese manufacturers fixed the problem by offering two or three preset option packages and restricting colour choices.
  • By the late 1970s, Japan was making serious inroads in North America, even though the domestic car industry was protected by tariff walls. The conversion of knowledgeable car buffs such as my father was the beginning of a wholesale shift that made Japanese cars the preferred choice.
  • I have analyzed the design and engineering of the early Honda Accord that made my father a convert. Compared with German and American cars of the same era, it felt light and faintly fragile. In fact, it was perfectly engineered, with the same attention to mass reduction that had made the Second World War Zero fighter plane superior to the Allied aircraft of the time.
  • The Accord had a small, high-revving engine, which went against the grain of North American design – Detroit emphasized large, under-stressed motors. As with the Zero, which outperformed its rivals because of its low weight, every component in the Accord was built to a precise weight and matched to every other part of the machine. 
  • I have owned a long series of Japanese cars, including a 1988 Honda Civic that lasted nearly 15 years and never needed a major repair. Like my dad's Accord, the Civic had a motor that seemed far too small for the job, but proved as durable as a tractor motor. 
  • When the automotive world was dominated by V-8 Chevrolets and three-ton Cadillacs, it was hard to believe that you could make a car that was both light and tough. It was also hard to believe that you could sell one that didn't have a 500-item option list. Today, this is standard practice. Everyone's engines are smaller and everyone focuses on cutting weight where they can. When you consider Japan's place in the automotive firmament, remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
1990s: I remember reading about the construction of the Osaka international airport and wondered how they could do it, in the way that they did it. It all started with the top management visiting the area, no executive buildings but plain sand. Work started with top executives visting when required, and buildings came up for their use after the needs of the labour/ workers had been met. The same article stated that in India, work would have first focused to build airconditioned offices for the management. Workers/ labours needs would be the last to be catered for.

1993: I moved in to my own flat in NOIDA, and had to travel to Vayu Bhawan for work every day. I saw first hand as to how the Japanese went about constructing the Indo-Japanese friendship bridge linking Noida and Delhi. The bridge was built by L&T, with funding and project management done by Japan. I remember the first thing to come up on the Delhi side was a board that stated the date of commencement, and the date of completion, which if I remember right was exactly 2 years from start date. Next a drinking water tank came up on stilts to meet the drinking water requirements of the workers. For the first time in India, I saw workers were given steel helmets to protect them from falling debris. The work on the bridge commenced at a frantic pace. Every day I went to work I would think as to how would they be able to complete the work in 2 years, but the board stood testimony to their intentions. My thought was based on my experience of the bridge being built over the same river, next to the ITO by Gammon India. The bridge never seemed to be progressing in years. Anyways, the bridge and its supporting 'need based infrastructure' came up in due course; the bridge was completed nearly 3 weeks before the planned date; plantation commenced nearly 5 weeks before the completion date. The bridge was inaugurated on due date, with greens on both sides. 

Novemeber 2008: I had blogged about the Toyota way in my other blog Relevant portions of the blog are reproduced about the Toyota way, which essentially is the Japanese way, even in their production facilities in North America.

  • Do you know how many hourly jobs GM has laid off from 2006 to July 2008? Take a guess. How about 34,000? And now, they're talking about another 5,500 layoffs. And now they're asking you and your government for a bailout to end their troubled, outdated, low quality, wasteful production system. But, let's not focus on fixing GM's problems with an infusion of cash. There's something even deeper going on here that's really wrong.
  • OK, here's a better question. How many hourly jobs has Toyota 's American production system laid off in the same time frame? Zero. That's right. ZERO. How? Isn't Toyota experiencing the same slow down in auto sales as GM is? Yes, it is. And yes, Toyota has halted production at its Texas and Indiana plants for the past 3 months. But the 4,500 people who work at those plants have not been laid off. What!?!?! How? Why?
    The answer: Toyota has a special culture, deep-rooted values, and respect for their workforce. Toyota 's tradition is to NOT lay off employees during hard times. This tradition hasn't really been put to the test until now. And Toyota has stuck to its guns and its values.

2017: I received a forward through whatsapp about the Japanese way of teaching young kids at school the necessary life skills of cleaning up after themselves and of taking responsibility for their actions, and for their surroundings. The video showed young kids spending time every day cleaning up their class rooms and lunch rooms, after finishing lunch. I have no doubts in my mind that a similar exercise in India would invite the wrath of most of the kids parents.

Elementary school students cleaning up their classroom

All the incidents above, had left a burning desire in me to visit this country that produces such humans, who are so like us and yet so different in the way they work and do things. God granted me this opportunity in May 2017 when my wife and I visited three cities of Japan - Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, over a period of 08 days. It was fascinating to watch them in the Bullet trains, in the local subways, in the restaurants, on the elevators, in the shops/ malls and every where. Most people in Japan speak only Japanese; only a few can speak limited English. Getting around was a big problem, as we would get lost looking for vegetarian, and Indian food. On three different occasions, we asked for directions from the locals. In one case, the man did not know the location of the restaurant. He took out his cellphone, got the Google map and told us exactly how to get there. On another occasion, the girl took out her cellphone, fed the destination and volunteered to walk us to the destination through a busy mall. On the third occasion, we had to catch a train and did not know which way to go. We asked a girl, who stopped, listened to us, but could not help us. We said thank you, but she felt so guilty that she nearly had tears in her eyes, feeling extremely bad that she could be of no help to us, and apologised profusely in Japanese.

On one occasion my wife and I had returned after a ride on the Ferris wheel in Osaka, and wanted to get to a Dotonbori street, known for night market/ life. We took the subway and got to the nearest station to the street. It was around 9:30 pm. We could not figure out as to which exit to take out of the nearly 20 exits at that place. Most signages are in Japanese. So, we decided to ask a gentleman who was wearing a suit and had a briefcase in hand. He appeared to be returning from work, heading home. He understood English, but spoke only a few words of English. He stopped, listened to us, and escorted us to a map. He tried to explain to us as to which exit to take, and how to get there. After a short while, he started walking in one direction and asked us to follow him. 

On my repeated attempts to discourage him, he continued and said, just follow me. I tried to reason with him but to no avail. He took us out of the nearest exit, and continued walking; my suggestions that 'we would find our way if he just told us which way to go', were brushed aside. By now we had walked about half a km. Imagine the scene - the man had just left work; got into the subway to go home; we meet him with a query; time - 9:30 pm; he escorts us out of the subway on to the roads; leads us to the street, and would have to traverse all that distance back to catch the subway home. All this after a full day's work. He finally stopped and told us that this was Dotonbori street, and left. It sure gave us an insight in to the Japanese way.

We planned to watch Mount Fuji through a trip that we signed up for. This included a bullet train ride, followed by a local train ride, a tram car ride, followed by a cable car ride, and a old big boat ride. We had booked our ticket and started the trip. There was a long queue at the cable car section. We finally managed to reach the cable car which we were to board. At that moment message was received that the cable car services had been suspended as a volcano in the vicinity had erupted. We were disappointed, but nothing could be done. We were told to take the local bus instead to the boat station, and thereafter continue as per our itinerary. We took the bus to the boat station and continued as per itinerary thereafter. However, we could not sight Mount Fuji because of the cancellation of the cable car services. 

On reaching the starting point, we decided to inquire if we could be refunded the money for the cable car section of the trip. The girl took our query to the concerned manager. He came down, looked at our tickets for the stamps, made a call, and gave instructions, and we were promptly refunded the money for the cable car section. No forms to fill, no hesitation, no receipts to sign, etc - no bureaucratic red tape. The whole matter took less than 5 minutes, if I remember right.

2018: I recently visited Chiang mai in Thailand, and had signed up for a day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden triangle in a shared van. We were a total of 11 people sharing the van. The Toyota van picked us up at 7:40 am from our hotel. The seating arrangement in the van was as follows: 
  • Entrance door - 3 seats together, opposite the entrance door.
  • Next row - 2 seats on the right and one on the left with passage in between
  • Third row - 2 seats on the right and one on the left with passage in between
  • Fourth row - 2 seats on the right and one on the left with passage in between

We were the third family to be picked up. When we entered, I saw a 3 member Chinese family sitting on the front row seats. I thus headed for the second row of 2 seats and sat down with my wife. I did notice one gentleman sitting on the last seat in the fourth row; you guessed right - he was Japanese who worked for PwC, as I got to know later. The next couple boarded and sat down on the third row and the final family picked up squeezed in to the fourth and last row. We all took the most convenient seats available in the van, as we got in. Only the Japanese consciously took the seat furthest away, and the seat that involved the maximum botheration for the occupant of the seat, of boarding first and exiting last, every time we halted for any reason. 

Japan is the only country that had two cities decimated by the atomic bombs in 1945; it had many high explosive devices dropped on its land mass; it is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, being part of the Pacific ring of fire; has limited natural resources; imports most raw material; and yet is one of the developed economies today. It the people of Japan that hold the key to the success of their country. 

It has strengthened my belief that Japanese are very mindful of others and go through a lot just to ensure that others are not inconvenienced or put through difficulty for their sake. They are very helpful and go out of their way to help, when asked.

The Japanese way is very unique; it is not seen any where else to my knowledge, and most of us humans have a lot to learn from them. Have you seen such mindful people any where else in the world?

Being Japanese: Mindfulness of Others