Solution Before The Problem.

The Economic Times of today carried this cartoon.

This, apart from being funny, is so profound that it has occupied my mind since I read it this morning.

How often do we offer solutions before we know the problem! Let me give you an example.

There is news item this morning in our newspapers that the Secretary Of State designate, Mrs. Clinton has proposed trebling the non military aid to Pakistan as a measure to solve the quagmire that Pakistan has become because of its nuclear capability.

The solution here is trebling the non military aid. What is the problem? I have so far not come across any mention of the problem that asks for a solution of this largesse. What has happened to all the non military aid that the USA has been giving Pakistan all these decades? Where has it been spent? Who benefited from it? What results on the ground are there for proof of having spent that money on development projects?

My American readers may have some answers. Neither the Pakistani press nor any other source is able to give me answers.

Do you have any idea as to what the problem is, for this solution that Mrs. Clinton has come up with?

Reaching Out.

Out of the blue, I received a telephone call from a young friend who lives way down South in Tirupur. Tirupur is our hosiery center from where many of the world’s popular cotton hosiery garments are exported. It is an industrial town with a high floating population and a much smaller resident population. Among the resident population, I have many friends as I spent most of my working life in the textile and accessories business. On two occasions, I had even lived there to handle a couple of projects.

My association with my young friend Srinivasan goes back to 1980 when I was located in Delhi. We had a branch at Ludhiana, another textile town in the Punjab. Srinivasan, Srini to his friends, was part of the Ludhiana team and a very valuable one at that. He had left his native state of Tamil Nadu and gone to Ludhiana for employment.

When I was transferred out of the North, Srini requested me to help him get transferred to Tamil Nadu, and using my network, I was able to help him. He made good use of the opportunity and grew within the company till the entrepreneur in him prodded him to be on his own. That too has been handled successfully by him, and he is a respected resident of Tirupur. He has been in regular touch with me all these years and calls me up when the mood takes him.

Srini is a typical family man. He has been a great support and inspiration for his siblings and other members of his family. He has got a wide net work of friends and business associates who consider him a decent soul ever ready to help others who are in need.

To illustrate his nature, let me tell you why he called. Just to say hello and to spend a few minutes reminiscing our past. He did not have to ask me for anything and on the contrary wanted to know if he could do anything for me from all the way there. That he remembered and called me to be just in touch was such a boost for me that I wish to share this with my readers. Such is the power of connections about which I had written earlier.

Coincidence? Serendipity? I do not know. Since I read the book, I am getting quite aware of the power of connections with many others turning up in my life. Perhaps I am just more aware.

I find it truly amazing. Have you started being aware after you read my post or got to know more about the book that I wrote about?

26/11 – Mumbai Terrorist Attack.

My blog friend Jim Belshaw and I have been having a dialogue in his blog on the Gaza problem and my sidetracking into the India/Pakistan imbroglio has resulted in a very interesting insight from Jim. I quote him – “On India and Pakistan, one of the reasons that I put so much emphasis from time to time on due process, is that it provides a way to manage the heat to be found in situations such as this one.

If the outcome were, as an example, to be war between India and Pakistan, then was what was a tactical victory for those involved in the Mumbai attack would become a major strategic success.” (emphasis mine)

The dialogue about which I posted yesterday continues to be interesting and can be found at

My Identity.

I try not to take myself too seriously and am usually quite successful.

Recently, two instances highlighted two different types of people with who one has to interact. I am sure that most of my readers will agree that these two types are about all that you come across though there could be the odd different type here and there too!

Since both had to do with my identity, let me share what happened with you.

When Phil was here, my father gathered from him that he was on his way to Ahmednagar, a town that is about 125 Kms away from where we live. The name Ahmednagar triggered some old forgotten names for my father and he quizzed whether Phil knew them. On being told that he did not, my father gave me the task of locating the names and whether they were still there. With much difficulty, I found that the generation that my father knew had passed on but their son was a practicing physician there. Again with some difficulty, I was able to get the phone number and spoke to the son and so did my father.

This physician got immediately quite interested in meeting us as my father knew so much about his parents and said that he would call on us on his next visit to Pune. He spoke to me and took clear directions so that he could easily reach our home and promised that in the next few days he would call me and come over. End of story.

My father knew another family in Pune where we live, and had last met them in 1992. Subsequently, his friend a fairly well known lawyer had passed away and I had conveyed the obituary information to my father many years ago. My father being the kind of man that he is, insisted on trying to locate the family and I started to run into blocks everywhere. With much difficulty I located their telephone number. They had shifted residences a couple of times in the meanwhile, and Pune had undergone a great deal of demolishing and rebuilding and this was the reason for the difficulty.

In the event, telephone contact was established and here again the son, undertook to bring his mother and his own family to meet my father and me and took directions to reach our home. Unlike the earlier instance however, he wanted to know more about me and the first question that he asked me was “What do you do?” I answered ” Pithah, Pathni and Puthra Seva”, which translated from Sanskrit to English would mean Service to father, wife and son. This is the truth but most Indians think that it is funny! I answer thus primarily to lighten the situation, and to emphasise that it is not important what I do, but it is important who I am. I often reply that I am a retired hippy, or a domesticated son in law, a retired salesman or some such equally hilarious reply just to indicate and emphasize that I do not wish to be categorized.

The son would not let it go and insisted on finding out how old I was, why I am in retirement, what I did before I retired etc. I had to answer as vaguely as possible, as I think that these questions were asked to slot me in some cubby-hole to pre-judge me, and I dislike obliging.

Why is it necessary to categorize people that you wish to get to know? Here was a situation where an old man was trying to reach out to his old friends and I was just an enabler. Why was it necessary for that son of my father’s friend to categorize me? So that he could categorize my father too?

I think that the answer to that question is that, society today has become so status conscious that one would not like to associate with anyone who can be perceived as being from a lower status. I consider such a value system snobbish and subhuman.

What do you think? Do you have such experiences? How do you react?


“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” — Jim Rohn

What has this quotation got to do with hospitality? Let me share two stories.

My friend Wani and I were sitting together and shooting the breeze at the park one evening last week. He is semi invalid and has to be assisted to walk and do most things that one has to do be active. He suddenly made a comment to me that freshly cut mutton was Rs.200 per Kg. I pleaded ignorance as I am a vegetarian and had not bought mutton for a very long time even for my son who is a non vegetarian. In any case, I asked him why he suddenly raised this topic and he told me about the problem that he was facing.

Like me, Wani’s wife Vimu is a vegetarian but cooks meat etc for the rest of the family. She however dislikes visiting the butcher to buy. Since Wani is incapacitated, she has to depend on her son to procure the meat and he is normally busy with his own affairs. She is also getting on in years and suffers from arthritis of the knees.

Wani’s immediate neighbor and his family were on a motoring vacation and were expected the next day, late in the evening. Before they had left on vacation, Wani had promised them to keep food ready for them when they arrived so that they would not have to cook after the long drive. So far, so good. Wani therefore wanted to get some mutton to prepare some interesting fare as the neighbors were all non vegetarians. I could not resist the temptation to tease him and simply said that you could very well give them some simple vegetarian food as they are likely to be tired and would want something light before going off to bed. Wani went ballistic and suggested that it would not be keeping with our tradition of hospitality to feed them vegetarian food knowing that they were non vegetarians.

I had a moment of clarity and realized that what must have happened was that when Wani invited them for the dinner, he must have, in his usual expansive style informed them that he would keep some delicious mutton dish. When I confronted him with his insight, he confessed that this was indeed the case and now he could not very well give them some simple fare! I still suggested that if it was a problem procuring the mutton and his wife did not have the inspiration to cook it even if it was procured, to simplify matters and prepare some simple food. Knowing his neighbors too, I suggested that they would not really mind. Wani went into a sulk and went back to his theme that it would not be good hospitality to do so.

In the event, mutton was procured, albeit at considerable difficulty to Vimu, cooked and everyone had a wonderful time but, I wondered whether this was indeed the right kind of hospitality.

The other story is about our family friend Phil from Georgia who frequently comments on my posts. He was visiting India and was planning to spend a day and a night with us. Since the arrival of my father, the guest bed room has been converted to a regular bed room, and we had explained to Phil about this. Phil was quite happy to share our son’s bed room. Phil also was quite happy to have what was on the dining table and did not make any demands on us to prepare something special for him. We had a great time with him being with us and wished that he had had more time to spend with us than he did.

Here are two instances of different approaches to hospitality. I believe that the guest has a responsibility to adapt and accommodate the host’s limitations and the host must be clear in what he can offer and what he cannot and must be willing to convey this to the guest.

Can we not plan our lives in a realistic and practical manner?

What do you think? Was Wani’s style right or ours?

Page Rank 3

I have just noticed that Page Rank for this blog has been moved up to 3 from 2. I must have done something right!

Naturally, I am very happy with this development. It would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of all my readers. Thank you.

I am now inspired to go about blogging the same way that I have been hitherto to try and hit 4 which I am told is a respectable score.