2014 in US: What I Read This Time

This was my fifth periodic long-break in US after retirement. Books become the second best things to keep me busy. Browsing for news and articles and blogging or writing on Facebook remains the prime engagements after the time spent for household work. Yamuna prepares our lunch and I help her in all possible manners. I got interested in kitchen gardening too this time. But let me talk about the books that I read this time during my stay there.

1. I had bought and brought with me a book ‘Somanatha-The Many Voices of a History’ written by the distinguished historian Romila Thapar from India to keep my self busy. As we know and read in our school days, Mahmoud Gajnavi attacked Somanatha sixteen times or so, broke the huge Shiva linga and parted with huge loots of gold, silver, and diamonds along with elephants and slaves. The book of Ms Thapar deals with many sources and a lot of analysis based on popular ballads, inscription, etc. However, as I proceeded with the book, I got more and more confused. I do not understand what we or posterity will gain from such a presentation.Romila does not consider Mahmoud Gajnavi as the sole plunderer or perpetrator of Somanatha.

2. I had perhaps in 2010 brought ‘The Hindus-an alternative history’ written by Wendy Doniger to US and left it with Anand in Cary. I had not read much that time and even thereafter, as I hardly found it interesting then. Next time, I got busy with completing my photo autobiography ‘Over the Years’. Last year, there was a lot of hue and cry about the book because of an old man called Dina Nath ….The publisher in India shredded all the book. I was curious and wanted to read myself to find out the reason causing annoyance to the old man and his followers. I went through almost the whole of the voluminous book. I think if anyone goes through all the scriptures, epics and books of ancient India that reflects on the concept of Hinduism as connected stories, one in all likelihood will be confused. It will be more so for an westerner who has not read those as written in the language of the time. Wendy’s book is compilation of large many facts, stories, anecdotes, and myths too. She has talked again and again about dogs, horses, elephants and so many things influencing Hinduism. However, the book is certainly not for common readers. It may confuse the most about the religion.

3. Anand has a special interest in Tesla Motors and Elon Musk. I never knew that Tesla was a person’s name. Tesla was a great scientist and contemporary of Thomas Edison and a great inventor himself credited with alternating current electricity.Musk has named his car company that has earned a lot of name for its power source, electricity from battery-pack, after the name of Tesla. Anand read somewhere that the best written book about Tesla is ‘Tesla-Man Out of Time’ by Magaret Cheney, and got it through Amazon.com as usual. Tesla would have died much richer if he would have had business acumen too like Edison. Tesla was just a scientist of extraordinary talent and perhaps much ahead of his time. Interestingly, Tesla just as Jagdish Chandra Bose worked on the invention of radios much before Marconi, but for which Marconi has been credited.

4. I also got the book on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose written by Sugata Bose on Kindle through Anand. Sugata believes in the story given by the Britishers that Bose died in air crash. It is an interesting reading. I had heard him on TV channel too. He was impressive. However, I could not understand why he entered TMC of Mamta. May be, it was perhaps to carry on the legacy of his elders.

It gives me a great pleasure when I find my sons loving the books in many contemporary fields of knowledge as well as those of their profession. Anand has a very good library in his house.

Books still remain my best companion.

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US Schooling: My Take

During my stay in Cary, I have regularly walked with Emma and Zach to drop them to their elementary school nearby. At the end of the school, I had been bringing them back too. It gave me that immense pleasure what a grandfather gets. I saw many children getting accompanied by one of their parents. So time around 8.40AM and 3.40PM had been a quality one. Some other things also impressed me while in US this time. I wish the schools and teachers in India take a note of it. Quite a large number of students in Emma’s school do also come from distant places. Some one in the family drops them just outside the school entrance. The vehicles of the parents queue up till the siren for the start of school goes, and then it start moving on one by one.

1. Volunteers: I enjoyed watching the kids who work as volunteers outside the school entrance opening the car doors and receiving the students with nice verbal pleasantries such as ‘good morning’, ‘good day’ or just ‘bye’ to the parent. The same thing happens again when the school ends at 3.40PM, this time for seeing off the fellow students in the vehicles of their parents. Some teachers are also present at critical points helping the traffic movements for safety. The volunteers also mount and unfurl the national flag along with those of the state every day morning. Why can not all the schools in India too unfurl our national flag that will certainly be a nice inspiring routine act?

2. Teachers’ salary in US is comparatively pretty poor. Certainly, they have their grievances too. But they appeared to be very involved in teaching and doing their duty diligently. Mostly Americans as well as the NRIs put their children in the government schools near the community unlike that in India. Even the family decide the purchase of their houses based on the ranking of the government schools. One can know about the accreditation and other details of the school on its websites. I have visited the sites of all the schools my grandchildren were and are attending in California, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. I wish the programme Digital India covers every school as priority, and in the next five to ten years all educational institutions and schools of all types get accreditation from a credible agency and an active website of its own. With increasing penetration of Internet and use of various electronics gadgets such as laptops, smart phones, tablets, the schools will have to be on web and cloud to make the life easy for guardians.

3. Reading and maths are the only two subjects that are taught in primary school, that is up to class V. Emma is in grade 2. She has other activities- art class for painting, computer lab, music, library and physical education that have allotted hours once in a week. The design of activities make the children love the school hours. All teachers know their students and the family, mothers in particular. Many of the simple and very cheap fixtures built by the school authority and teachers make the school hours interesting along with imparting certain discipline, healthy life and knowledge too.

4. The education is fully free. Unprivileged ones get many other benefits. Interestingly, the class teachers request the parents who can afford, to arrange some supplies such as writing papers, clear files, or pencils for the use by the children or in the class. I found Shannon preparing a special T- shirt for each student of Emma’s class. She prepared a sweet dish one day for the class of Zach. Teachers are innovative and keep on working for making education a fun rather than a burden, arrange number of programmes involving the students and interested parents.

I could not even dreamt of the knowledge that Zach in KG and Emma in Grade 2 have, though naturally their mother has contributed too.

I keep on contemplating how the millions of kids in schools of rural and urban government school in India will reach a respectable standard in reading and math.

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Manufacturing India: Where India missed?

I was reading a blog of some one from the Lab Media of MIT visiting and writing on the ecosystem of manufacturing in Shenzen in China that must be read by our PM and all his men who will like to live up to his dream of making India a superpower in manufacturing.

It was perhaps sometime in 1970s, an employee working for me sold a two-in-tape recorder with a ‘National’ brand tags for my children in hind Motor. Soon I could realise or perhaps an well wisher of mine pointed me out that the recorder was a pirated one. Delhi and Ludhiana were the source of the electronics items in those days. I don’t think there if they still exist. Perhaps, it do not.

While working in HM, I also came to know about the machine tools used extensively in engineering industries that were being made in those days in Punjab. However, in good company such as ours, those machines were considered as one of very poor quality and capability. If the government and the nation’s R&D facilities would have assisted and supported those hilarious entrepreneurs, and the users would not have looked down upon them, India would have become a manufacturing nation today as China is.

Even today, I find the same situation and mindsets. We hardly promote and support the capital goods manufactured against all odds. We all including the government agencies, have love for everything that comes as import even from China.

The sector in my mind at this time is the agricultural machines, implements and appliances. While in my native village in Bihar and all around it, I come across huge harvesters and combines, all made in Punjab. Indian manufacturers can very easily become the significant or may be globally the most competitive players in its manufacture and exports to all the developing and developed countries and underdeveloped Africa. The same may go for many items that already manufactured or has a good potential for getting manufactured in the country. Unfortunately I doubt if the manufacturers are getting the right support to become a global brand. The world knows only few known manufacturers in agricultural machineries such as M&M or TAFE and that too only for tractors. Will the sector get the attention of Modi’s government and bodies such as FICII and CII to make India a global player?

There are many areas where our men have wonderful knowledge and skill in manufacturing. We all know about the illegal manufacture of small arms in certain pockets of the country. Sometimes, we come across about their wonderful quality through media reports. One certainly may not support the illegal work being done by some of those craftsmen But we should not overlook the high skill of these people. Can’t the administration think of a way out for using these human resources?

Finally, I shall like to quote a portion of the blog for those who can not or does not want to take the pain of using the internet:
“We started in the section of the market where people were taking broken or trashed cellphones and stripping them down for all of the parts. Any phone part that conceivably retained functionality was stripped off and packaged for sale in big plastic bags. Another source of components seemed to be rejected parts from the factory lines that were then repaired, or sheets of PCBs in which only one of the components had failed a test. iPhone home buttons, wifi chipsets, Samsung screens, Nokia motherboards, everything. bunnie pointed to a bag of chips that he said would have a street value of $50,000 in the US selling for about $500. These chips were sold, not individually, but by the pound. Who buys chips by the pound? Small factories that make all of the cellphones that we all buy “new” will often be short on parts and they will run to the market to buy bags of that part so that they can keep the line running. It’s very likely that the “new” phone that you just bought from ATT has “recycled” Shenzhen parts somewhere inside.
The other consumer of these parts are the people who repair phones. Phone repair starts with simple stuff like replacing the screen to full-on rebuilds. You can even buy whole phones built from scrap parts – ”I lost my phone, can you repair it for me?”
After this market where phones were “recycled” we saw equivalent markets for laptops, TVs, everything.”

The great policy makers of the country must realise that every great nation of the present era starting from the great power USA, the miraculous Japan and today’s indomitable manufacturing power China, have gone up through piracy at the initial stage. Today, if India wishes to be a manufacturing power and supplier of consumer items all over the world as China, India will have to go all out starting with manufacturing for local markets, refining, innovating, patenting and capturing the world market through manufacturing units located all over India, perhaps in every household with 3D printers. If Modi wishes to make India a manufacturing power, he must not be wasting the national resources on keeping many of the manufacturing PSU units just breathing.

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My Angst against Nitish Kumar

I feel bad when some one says that Nitish, the politician is irrelevant, and will never be back as chief minister of Bihar. Still, Nitish remains the best candidate. But Nitish also failed many like me for many reasons. Here are some reasons that made me feel morose.

1. Nitish could not pick up some knowledgeable and efficient persons who could have effectively improved the standard of education, healthcare and industrialisation. He could have tapped them even from the private sectors if he didn’t find them in UPSC lot.

2. Nitish could have improved the working of the Panchayats and municipalities more transparent and effective to become helpful for the residents at large.Nitish got the publicity for bringing a 33% reservation for women in Panchayats in Bihar. These democratic bodies are hardly in touch with the people they serve.

3. Nitish never gave a real boost to scale up some really successful local enterprises and entrepreneurs. Be it Pandey who tried to light up the rural Bihar with biomass power generation or Lilawati a poor woman who started earning by producing mushrooms in her own house.

4. Nitish never put his weight for getting the Lalu’s sanctioned two railway manufacturing plants in Madhepura and Chhapra that with ancillary companies could have brought Bihar in the list of states with a significant manufacturing sector.
5. Bihar could have improved its tourism with better investment in hospitality sector as well as its handicraft sector with thrust on Madhubani art and others. It required some hand holding and focus. Nitish could have got Gaya developed as international airport and perhaps established a smart Budhhist City in vicinity of Gaya with help of Japan, Thailand, or SriLanka.

6. Nitish spent more time on fighting with the centre for increasing the number of poor in Bihar rather than taking up the poverty as challenge and creating employment. Could not he get the youths trained in driving if nothing else?
7. Nitish kept Bihar as the sole state with very few private professional colleges of engineering and forced the young students to migrate and pay huge sums in the institutions of far off states.

8. Nitish did pursue with some institutions such as Chandragupta College of Management or Chanakya Law Institute, but could not keep the pressure on these to bring them into the best category in the category. Even his support for Nalanda University was hardly significant. Even the central universities and institutions were hardly facilitated.

9. Nitish encouraged the consumption of liquor of all types. I have seen even kids in rural Bihar are consuming the local liquor so frequently and almost openly. Nitish did this only for his election fund.

10. Nitish did not take any effective step to make the adult women educated so that they could appreciate the role of education for a good life today. He could have found some solution through lakhs of contract teachers that he employed. He could have paid them some extra allowance for this extra but essential task of nation building.

Bihar today lack an iconic figure as the head to take it in the league of the most advanced states of the country.

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Post Teachers Day

I found at least some teachers on TV news channels complaining that Modi’s address on the Teachers Day fell sort about teachers. Here in US, it was an early morning treat for me. I critically heard his every word.

I wonder why Modi should not be allowed to talk with millions of members of the future generation and to help them know his views. And as it appeared, most of them liked it. However, the questions from the students appeared to be assisted and prepared by others, may be their teachers. It missed the natural inquisitiveness . I am sure that it was not because of the directives of the babus of DOE or CBSE.

Modi through his words and gestures wished to establish the respectability of the huge teaching community that is on fast deterioration.

Is it not true that there is no dearth of employment if one trains oneself as good teacher? A good teacher today for the first time can get into a good to outstanding brand and earn sufficient compensation too. One can practise that sitting at home or by exploring all over the globe today as Modi asserted. Further, nothing affects this profession negatively, not even slow down. Modi emphasised that the whole world is in need of good teachers. Why should not it allure best of the younger generation to join this profession? But naturally one will have to keep on working hard and updated to remain really good teacher with changing time.

Unfortunately, most of the practising teachers in India are not proud of the profession today. And sometimes it seems the profession attracts only the academically lowest brains with no passion and even a good heart today.

They must arise, exert a little more and get a real respectable position with endeavour, innovation, entrepreneurship- all on their own.

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By One Who Loves and Hates Bihar….

Since 2005, I have been coming to US almost every second year and staying for almost four to six months. I try to meet the persons of Indian origin, and most of the elders are the parents of those who have come and work in US. This time I observed and experienced something that perhaps in my earlier visits I overlooked. Most of the Indian elders in our community ‘Harmony’ in Cary are South Indians with those from Andhra in majority. Anand confirms that the number of persons from Andhra are maximum in Cary and Morrisville. We don’t have a single family from Bihar. Andhra till 90s was not that educationally advanced.

And then I tried to do some more research. With maximum number of private engineering colleges in Andhra, as confirmed by a Times of India news report, Andhra sends the maximum number of students for higher studies to US. Many of them stay back.

Why has Bihar lagged behind so miserably? One can’t expect Lalu or Rabri Devi to understand that. But Nitish Kumar, himself an engineer by education, should have understood this and could have taken steps to correct the situation of education, higher education in Bihar. But Nitish Kumar after doing some development work spent all his time and resources for vote bank politics, and there too because of his egoistic approach failed miserably. Today Nitish Kumar is busy in retaining his relevance in Bihar politics, though he had all potentials and opportunity to become the prime minister of the country with shrewd political strategy. Bihar awaits a bleak future if the results of the recent by-polls are to be believed as the mood of the state.

But perhaps the sole responsibility for the degradation of education in Bihar must be owned more by its people than anything else. All these years of my active life I found all the parents and guardians in Bihar more interested in getting their children passed by even the foulest means, chit management at examination, leaking the question papers, finding out the assessor and bribing him, and then finally getting some job as clerk, policeman, or even in defence services too by paying any amount of money to the middlemen and corrupting any system.

Recently I found some students from Bihar in the protest movement for Hindi in UPSC examination as crusaders. I doubt if they had the required level of excellence even in Hindi. And I am sure they have not read even ten good books in that language. And it is not only me who is having this experience. A noted columnist has this to write:

“Among the panelists was a so-called ‘crusader’ of ‘the rights of Hindi and India’s 22 other regional languages’. This young man, hailing from Jamui in Bihar, was full of fire. His comments soon generated into a rant against English and the so-called ‘elite’ usurping ‘the rightful share of opportunities’ of India’s masses, most of whom cannot speak English and thus are at a disadvantage as far as education and employment opportunities are concerned.
One particular rant by the young man made me freeze. “…I want to warn you, O slaves of English,” he roared in a rhetorical ditty in heartland Hindi, “Prafulla Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Chandrasekhar Azad died to drive the British from this land and raise the tricolour. If you do not honour the tricolour , there will be consequences.”

What can we infer about the future of the state with the type of political leadership that Bihar had, have and are perhaps going to have? The people of Bihar can only be in menial work all over India and perhaps in Arab countries.

And what can be the way out?

Education, education, education, ….knowledge….skill…excellence in English, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, ……engineering, science, maths, architecture, … Business management….

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पचहत्तरवें जन्मदिन पर

पचहत्तरवें जन्मदिन पर
अगस्त १४, २०१४

कभी हर दिन एक नयी आशा,
कुछ कर गुज़रने की तमन्ना
लिये आता था
अब है हर दिन के गुज़र जाने की गुज़ारिश केवल

पर नहीं एक छोटी ही सही चिंगारी कहीं है बाक़ी
एक सही झोंके के आ जाने की मद्धिम आश लिये

पचहत्तरवें जन्मदिन पर
बच्चे अगस्त १४ को मना लिये, रिकार्ड में आज का दिन, अगस्त २९, है जन्म दिन । कोई हीरक जयन्ती लायक तो काम किया नहीं, और अब अपने मनाने के दिन नहीं जो मैं हिन्दमोटर के शुरू के सालों में करता था । मुझे बिश्वास है उस समय के दोस्तों को याद होगा, जो अभी हैं ।ख़ैर, सभी को उनकी शुभेच्छाओं के लिये हार्दिक धन्यवाद। अब आदत के अनुसार अपनी बात…….

समय की िशला पर
समय दर समय पर
कुछ कबिता गढ़ी थी
कुछ कहनी कही थी
अपने कुछ िबचारों की
मथनी मथी थी
और आज िफ़र जब
पलट देखता हूँ
सोच में आ पड़ा हूँ ….

समय आकर मुझको
बदलता रहा है
बदल कर जिया हूँ
नया कुछ किया हूँ
और चलता रहा हूँ।

कुछ को गर न भाया
कुछ को तो हूँ भाया
न कोई है शिकवा
न कोई शिकायत।

यही एक आशा
बाक़ी सफ़र भी
कुछ करते कराते
कुछ सीखते सीखाते
ऐसे हीं गुज़र जाये ।

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