I had expressed my bewilderment with the very casual use of the word “love” in an earlier post. I had asked, in all seriousness, how a man can say, “ I love my wife” and after five minutes say “I love Masala Dosa” with the same intensity.

Another word like that in a different league altogether, but equally as casually used to describe all kinds of things is “Success”. I always insist on anyone using this word in any communication to me, to clearly define what exactly is meant and in what context it is used.

Let me illustrate.

I have two friends. The three of us were classmates in school and have continued to be friends for all these years.

One is a very wealthy entrepreneur who has just about every possible material comfort and status symbol that money can buy. He comes from a small farming family whose two other brothers are still farmers just about reaching what can be called a border line upper middle class level of life styles. My friend has nothing to do with his brothers and shuns them for having treated him very shabbily when he did not want to be a farmer and wanted to partition the property to take his share to start his business. Subsequent to his success, the brothers of course tried to get back into his good books, but my friend would have nothing of it. The schism, is supposed to be the cause of the death of both of his parents at untimely ages.

This friend has a son and a daughter. The son has joined the father’s business after completing his studies, which included an MBA from an American University. The daughter is married into another wealthy business family and is apparently comfortably settled.

The other friend was the most studious of the three of us and went on to become a Professor. He has got a PhD and is considered to be an excellent teacher with a very loyal student and peer following. Like most teachers, he has not made a great deal of money but is reasonably comfortable in his retirement with his pension and income from savings. His two sons, both in the USA subsidize his standard of living and therefore he has no financial problems.

I am retired from a lifetime of professional management and consulting, besides being a mentor to a number of young managers and entrepreneurs. I have a son who lives with us after his divorce from his wife of five years. He is also recovering from a failed entrepreneurial venture, and is now in regular employment paying off the debts that he had accumulated in his attempt at entrepreneurship. My primary occupation is to provide care to my wife who is semi invalid. I have a reasonably good life style though not anywhere near what my other two friends can afford.

My first friend has had two open-heart surgeries and is slightly handicapped due to a stroke. The other friend has been to the USA on three occasions and has returned to India a disappointed man, as he does not want to live there, and his two sons, do not want to return to India. He and his wife have just moved into a cooperative home project for senior citizens.

From among the three of us, who do you think is a success? Why?

We are like that only.

What a Sunday! I got my weekly dose of "Outlook" and an article in it prompted this post. After I finished writing the first draft, another article caught my attention and that too has been added as an after thought in this same post.

The first article is by Saikat Datta and gives an interesting insight into the working of India’s RAW (Research and Analysis Wing). It is aptly titled "Spy versus Spy" and talks about the intra departmental rivalries between the IPS (Indian Police Service) officials and the RAS (Research and Analysis Service). The two services between the two of them have apparently been causing a lot of problems within this important part of India’s security establishment.

When I mentioned this to one of my retired Armed forces friends, he told me that this was nothing and went on to elaborate how, these two will gang up at an appropriate opportunity to take on the IAS, the BSF, the Armed Forces, etc and within the bureaucracy and the establishment, there will always be such inter departmental, and inter services rivalries and detrimental politicking. He related the latest instance of how the Rajasthan Police and the IPS, including the CBI blamed the BSF for being corrupt and allowing Bangladeshis to enter India.

He also mentioned how the IAS has always done things to protect its own turf at the cost of other services and pointed out the latest Pay Commission fiasco which has resulted in a lot of unpleasantness in the Armed Forces as well as in the Scientific establishment etc.

The political scene is no less illuminating for its sheer self-centeredness at the cost of the nation’s interest. The drama of the UPA unraveling and political wheeling dealing going on is a spectacle that no Bollywood movie can match for its sheer drama!

The other article is inset by John Mary "25:17…Path Of The Righteous Man" which talks about the crisis in Kerala arising out of text books approved for school children. One cites the example of an instance in a text book where the child of mixed parenthood unable to fill in religion cast etc in an application form, which has been criticized for leaving the children with lasting impressions,of quite what, one is led to imagine.

I had first hand experience of this in Bangalore in 1989. My son Ranjan was seeking admission into the plus two section of a college and required my personal appearance before the Principal to secure it. I rushed only to be informed that the application form as filled in by me will result in Ranjan not getting a hall ticket to write his examinations. The problem was that I had written that Ranjan had no religion or cast. At that point it was true as Ranjan had not made up his mind whether to take up my religion, Hinduism or his mother’s which is Christianity. So, after mutual consultation, Ranjan and I agreed to put in Hinduism as his religion but that left the caste. I joked with the Principal that perhaps I should put it down as Scheduled Caste. He promptly advised me to do so, if I could produce documentary evidence as, a lot of benefits can accrue to Ranjan. I politely declined. When I suggested that it be Nil, the Principal pointed out that while he appreciated my intentions, it would be impractical as the computer would not recognize nil as a caste and would create endless problems for Ranjan. I was beaten by technology and had to put in my caste down.

On a visit to my father in his village home, when I related this story to him, my father, a wise man berated me for having missed an opportunity. He said that it would have been a simple matter for him to have got a certificate issued to me identifying me as belonging to one of the scheduled castes! It would have perhaps cost a few hundred rupees, but it could have been done!

And that brings me to the last part of this post. As I finished writing the above, I checked the latest news and found this which I urge all of you to visit and read.

This is from CNN and I reproduce the first few paragraphs to whet your appetite.

"NEW DELHI, India (CNN) — One out of every three families living below the poverty level in India paid a bribe last year for basic public services, like admitting a family member into a hospital, according to a new report.

The report by Transparency International India and the Center for Media Studies said poor people in India paid about $210 million (9,000 million rupees) in bribes last year to the police, schools, hospitals and power companies.

The bribes were for basic services, the report said: to file a police report, to enroll a child in school, to admit a family member into a hospital or to get electricity turned on.

"This kind of corruption that denies people their entitlement to basic and need based services, many of which may be ‘free’ by law, results in the poor finding themselves at the losing end of the corruption chain," said R. H. Tahiliani of Transparency International India in a statement."

Our Residential Colony

My idea of a good life is to live in a place where the environment brings people together in ways that enhance their enjoyment of the facilities that are available.

I am fortunate to live in a colony that perfectly fits in to this idea of mine. When we moved in here seventeen years ago, many people did not know about the colony and auto rickshaws would ask for double the fare as it would be difficult for them to get fares back to the city. There was only one paved road and the others were on the Municipal Corporation’s drawing board. While there were some people already living in the colony, we were also welcomed as pioneers.

Most people had come to settle down in Pune either after retirement, or due to transfers to it for employment in the growing industrial sector. For many people, selling off their small flats in Mumbai, then known as Bombay, and shifting to Pune made sense. Larger flats were available at much lower prices and the left over cash made a nice cushion for the retirement nest egg. Our colony too started off mostly with this kind of residents.

Today, the colony has become what people call “up-market”. There is a multiplex, a few big name retailers, a shopping mall, some famous franchises like the McDonald, KFC, etc, besides others like, Roebock, Nike etc. Prices have shot up and the nice old gentle pace has been replaced with high speed traffic zooming around. Many software companies have set up shop here and the floating population with its attendant problems too has begun to trouble us old timers.

In this scenario, the colony’s joggers’ park a beautiful place, is a magnet in the mornings and evenings for people who wish to walk, jog or just sit around, and offers a recreational area for children too. Some very interesting things happen in this joggers park and I shall be writing on and off about those events.

India unifying?

My friend from Tirupur shared a problem that he faces in the new factory that he has put up at Coimbatore. He is unable to get employable workers! He personally went to some villages around Coimbatore to recruit some apprentices but was unable to. He was amazed at the response from women of these villages who were willing to come to learn and work in his plant if some kind of hostel accommodation was provided but the men were simply not interested. The reason? The various schemes given out by the government for the unemployed gave them sufficient funds to enjoy themselves without working.

Normally, I would have written off such comments as prejudice from armchair pundits. This friend however is not prone to exaggeration nor is he capable of untruth. He sincerely wished to create wealth and provide employment to people from the underprivileged background but this is what he found.

He further went on to say, that his is not an isolated instance, and other small and medium scale entrepreneurs too were faced with this problem. Both at Coimbatore and Tirupur therefore, increasingly, women from Kerala and men from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are being encouraged to come to work. I have first hand knowledge of the imported labour from Bihar and UP in the North Western states of India as well as in Gujarat and Maharashtra and its political dimensions.

Is this now Nature’s way of unifying India? Consider the additional fact of Haryana and Rajasthani men not finding brides locally due to female infanticide etc, going to Kerala, Orissa etc to bring back brides, this certainly seems to be so!

The minus side to this development however is the fact that the women involved in all this simply slog, and the men folk of their families enjoy themselves at their expense. About that development, more in a future blog.


I had given a brief note about Tirupur in my post yesterday and rather mysteriously advised that I shall continue on the subject of “Aspirations”. So, here I go.

My guests are son, daughter-in-law and grandson of a very dear friend of mine from Tirupur. My friend is a second-generation entrepreneur but has concentrated on being an agent for various manufacturers and a merchant rather than go into manufacturing. His father before him too was similarly a merchant.

My friend, let us call him SG, had a lot of hopes of his only son, my guest, let us call him SM, will join him in the business after his college education. SM did try that for a while but found that working for his father was too restraining and so went off on his own into business. He is a serial entrepreneur, and was one before that term became popular. He had a series of fiascos and finally came out a winner and has been with two businesses, which are successful since the last five years.

He, his wife and two sons however find that Tirupur is not exactly the kind of place that they would like to live. They have set up another home at Coimbatore, which is only fifty kilo meters away and is the largest city in that area.

Just about every family from Tirupur is going through this problem of the younger generation not prepared to live and work in Tirupur. They want to migrate to bigger cities and even abroad. Given the background that every singly business house in Tirupur is family owned and managed, there is a kind of crisis building up with younger generations not willing to stay there.

So, from agriculture to industry/commerce and to emigration, aspirations have made Tirupur an enigma! When I probe the causes for this phenomenon, I find that information regarding the life styles of people in cities, gleaned from the ubiquitous TV is responsible for this desire to get away from the stifling family, cast and social restraints that the rather orthodox community of Tirupur insists on.

So, a kind of revolution of sorts is taking place and quite how the next twenty or so years will be handled by this buoyant town is to be seen.