Archive for the 'general' Category

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i Gen and Beyond – Profound Social Changes with Great Impact on Our Lives

Today, I was reading through a review of a recent book titled  ” i Gen ” authored by Jean.M .Twenge , in today’s Wall Street Journal [WSJ] . The author categorizes ” i Gen ” as people born between 1995 and 2012 , labeling this birth cohort [ generally known as Gen Z] as a group that doesn’t know a world without the internet and smartphones and is now 24% of the US population. The population of this group in India will be much more , I guess , with equally tech savvy especially on the smart phones  . India has more than 900 million mobile phones and counting with at least a third of it smart phones  . Recently , on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence , Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Group announced a package with a free smart phone and unlimited free calls and data for as low as Rs 159 [ less than $ 3 ] per month in his Jio Network for the first 20,000,000 subscribers ! I believe the pre -booking is almost done !

On the behavior side, iGen , according to the author , is neither cynical as Gen X , nor as over confident as Gen Y , with a radical departure when it comes to their views on religion , free speech  and relationships . Technology  and social media is central to understanding this generation’s experience , with their social lives shifted decisively from in – person interaction to the virtual world .   . Worse , they are not happy with their ” on line ” life!. A major cause of worry, according to the author is the stunted development of adult skills which creates a generation that prefers the ’emotional safety ‘ of virtual relationships to the messy entanglements of real ones .

From a Social Science perspective , Veterans [ Silent Generation – Seniors ] to which I belong adhered to rules , are  conformists , had a hard time growing up , believes in family values and became prosperous by hard work . The Baby Boomers who came after World War 2 , believed in equal rights and opportunities , were optimists and team oriented . The developed and developing world flourished because of their commitment and dedication . Gen X [ 1960-80 ] grew up in diversity of culture , are independent , entrepreneurial , informal , pragmatic , techno literate and  think globally . The Millennials [ Gen Y ] of 1980-2000 are more confident , achievers , fun loving , sociable , street smart , tech savvy – a  global community .

Each such generation brought along certain distinct  behavior and social dimension , generally towards the progress of mankind.  Today , in my own nuclear family , I can say that both me and my wife have adapted to technology  , spending about 3 to 4 hours a day on our smart phone ,  i pad or laptop , buying things and paying bills on line and able to understand GPS . A far cry from the days of coal gas buses , 78 rpm discs , analog radios , box cameras ,  and  35 mm movies in a theater . My children are very tech savvy , achievers with a great goal orientation and cannot live without net connectivity. My grand children spend more than half of their waking hours with electronic devices , especially when they are on a vacation ! . One really has to pull them away from a device to which they are glued in – with Netflix , Facebook , Whats App etc.

Where do we go from here ? . Technology is already leap frogging as a leading indicator of future possibilities . Cloud platforms , I o T , Automation , Robotics , AI and Machine Learning are making manual work redundant in almost all areas of repetitive and predictive work . Do the new Generation following i Gen soon compete with Robots and the like? . Does the sci-fi Star Wars become a reality in our lifetime ?  Will human habitats transcend the earth and move to the galaxies up there ?  What will happen to physical relations ? How about human cloning ? .  It is both scary and appealing  paradoxically at the same time !  I think it is time we need another Alvin Toffler to write a book on  ” Future Shock Revisited ”  .

Welcome Friends Old and New – Linger Here a Day or Two – Cape May , NJ

Lighthouse

WELCOME FRIENDS OLD AND NEW  – LINGER HERE A DAY OR TWO  – An inviting sign board at the Perry Street in Cape May captures the essence of this  seaside tourist paradise located at the tip of Southern New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula.

Cape May has a rich history of more than 400 years – Henry Hudson, an English Sea Captain in 1609 came upon this small peninsula while sailing in his small yacht  “Half Moon” between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. In 1620, a Dutch Captain MEY gave the place his name, later on changed to Cape May. This place continued to be a tourist destination, initially with the Native Americans and thereafter with the settlers over the years.  Good roads and rail roads soon connected this peninsula with many New Jersey and New York localities and today it is one of the most sought after summer Sea Side Tourist spots with clean beaches, trolley rides, ghost tours, home tours covering a rich history, the Sunset beach  with Victorian Style bungalows lining up on both sides of its approach, shopping and world class dining. A good number of hotels, home stays and condominiums cater for the visiting tourists. A population of merely 4000 caters for an average number of summer tourists numbering 40,000 plus every year.

WW2 lookout posts

We had a good look at Cape May on 13 Aug 2017 after a nice two hour drive from Montgomery through some of the scenic places en route. We began with an afternoon tea at the Carriage House Cafe and Tea Room located at the historic Emlen Physick Estate, followed by a two hour visit to the beach adjacent to the light house watching dolphins very near the coast.  The bird sanctuary near the beach, a second world war look out bunker were the added attractions at the beach.

At the beach.

We continued after sunset with a walk through Washington Street near the President’s Summer Retreat [ I understand US Presidents right from Abraham Lincoln holidayed here during summer] and a quick visit to the vibrant Perry Street where we saw many of the city population out there along with visiting tourists enjoying the Sunday evening. We concluded our short visit with a great Mexican dinner at De Mayo enjoying some of the best food cooked by a Mexican lady all by herself [ the place is open from 12 noon to 9 PM every day !] and managed by her daughter and two or three staff members.

Jerry Lewis – The God of Hollywood Comedy in the 50’s and 60’s

Jerry Lewis who made us laugh for two decades or more during the 50’s and 60’s is no more. It is with a lot of nostalgia that I remember his earlier movies in the 50’s pairing with actor – singer Dean Martin – My Friend Irma, At war  with the Army ,  Hollywood or Bust , The Three Ring Circus , to name a few which I have watched . They were a great pair and excelled in various pranks – mostly situational comedy graduating from the pure slap stick variety of Charlie Chaplin and others in the 40’s . While Martin played the cool guy with his charm , Jerry played the “goof up ” guy.

After falling out with Dean Martin , Jerry did some great comedy movies like The Bellboy , The Disorderly Orderly ,The Ladies Man ,The Nutty Professor and Boeing Boeing [ with Tony Curtis] . During this period , Jerry used sound and action to fashion a new form of physical comedy , the forerunner of movies  with Jim Carrey , Robin Williams Eddie Murphy and others. He also taught a film course at the University of Southern California and his students included Steven Spielberg and George Lucas .

For decades, Mr Lewis was the public face of the fight to cure muscular dystrophy , hosting an annual televised fundraiser for the MDA that , all told , raised nearly $ 2 billion. It was in 1976 , that in a public event Frank Sinatra surprised Jerry Lewis by ushering an unexpected guest onto the stage : Dean Martin!. The two who met after decades and embraced each other

Jerry Lewis was a totally committed comedian who depicted the ” fool ” with great abandon. Paramount Pictures signed him up for a $ 10 million contract in 1959 when he was 33 , allowing him to write , direct and produce his own films .  Jerry Lewis’s last screen appearance was in ” The King of Comedy ” a satire where he played the title role . The film was released in 2016.

Jerry Lewis has become a memory – and we will always  cherish the golden age of Hollywood Comedy  where Jerry played a major role.

Also see my blog “Out of the box thinking ” dated 31 October 2010 on this site.

Field Punishment – An episode from my early days in the Army

I tasted my first drink at the age of 15 when I was barely out of school . I used to drink once in a while at the college. During our training at the Indian Military Academy [IMA] ,Dehra Dun , India , we ,Gentlemen Cadets were  not allowed to drink .[I understand now they can have a glass of beer during social occasions!]. This episode happened when we were on a forward area tour of Sikkim during our course break in December 1965 .

After landing at Siliguri , the rail head , our batch of 20 cadets proceeded by road in military vehicles towards the Chinese border under the supervision of  an instructor, a Major  from IMA . After a lunch break at Teesta , we proceeded to Rongli , our night halt for Day 1 at a height of 3000 feet above Mean Sea Level. We were accommodated at the Officer’s Mess of an Animal Transport Company. The officer commanding of this Company  invited us for dinner . It was very cold at night in the peak of winter and the Major , our host ,wanted to offer us all a drink. He requested our Instructor for permission who reluctantly permitted all of us to have half a peg of any alcoholic drink.

While I was grudgingly taking my rationed drink, a Captain from the host company asked me if I would like to drink more, I said yes  and he took me to another side room and poured me a large peg of Rum. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and continued drinking with him for more than an hour without our Instructor noticing it . I believe I took about eight large pegs and was told later on that I was really in ” high spirits ” throughout the rest of the evening , started singing loudly and indulged in all “un- officer like ” behavior and skipped my dinner. I passed out on top of a ping pong table and was escorted to my tent by my colleagues for the night.

All hell broke when I got up in the morning and our Instructor wanted to take severe action on my conduct and report  this at IMA when we got back. He told me I will get relegated to the next junior batch losing 6 months of seniority in the bargain. The Company Commander pleaded with our Instructor against it and suggested that as this “offence ” happened in the field , I may undergo a ” Field Punishment ” there only . The punishment decided was that I should walk to the next destination – Padam Chin [height 10,000 feet] ,about 5 hours drive up the hills . Another cadet who did not give me away to our Instructor  ,the previous night when questioned about my identity , was also sent along with me.

We started after break fast and enjoyed the journey of about 12 hours on foot , bought some liquor en route and reached the destination by late evening. The party was already there by lunch time. It happened to be 31st December and our hosts at Padam Chin , another Army Unit wanted us to join the cocktail and dinner. We confided in the host about our rules for drinking. He said ,not to worry. What he did surprised us for its ingenuity – He got our instructor drunk in his tent , before joining for dinner . During the cock tail session, we played a game singing ” Nine green bottles hanging on the wall ‘ and each cadet singing will move to the bar and take a drink in turn. Our instructor was present but could not comprehend clearly what was going on !. Need less to say we enjoyed the New Year Eve party thoroughly and I for one and my buddy, the ” Field Punishment ” In Sikkim preceding that ,during the day.

Tail Piece – On the following day , New Year Day , we were hosted for lunch at Kupup Tri-Junction short of Jelep La pass by the local Brigade Commander. He ordered for beer for all the cadets and when our instructor objected , told him to keep quiet as he ,the Brigadier , is in command there and everyone will follow his orders!  We secretly said ” Three Cheers” to the Brigadier!

Post Script – I served in the rank of Major during 1979-82 in Sikkim at a high altitude field workshop as its Officer Commanding near Nathula Pass. I made it a point to visit the Officers Mess at Padam Chin out of sheer nostalgia.

Medicine For the Soul !

We are  now in the US at Montgomery, New Jersey with our daughter and family. Last week , I visited  the Town’s public library with my son in law and picked up a couple of books for reading. I was quite impressed by the overall ambiance , professionalism and the collections in the library.

How do we rate the performance of a Library ? What are the metrics? Number of books ?  Number of members utilizing the facility ?  Range and coverage of subjects? Number of Videos available for rent? Educational Value to the community served?

I remember a conversation I had once on this subject with Lt Gen Y S Tomar at Mhow Cantonment , India. I had just reported to the College of Combat [now Army War College] there , having been nominated to attend the prestigious Higher Command Course for 10 months . This course generally deals with Military Strategy at Field Army level for those officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force handpicked based on merits and proven records in Command and staff appointments in the rank of Colonel and equivalent. The College had one of the best library in the country with more than 75000 books at that time in 1988 and subscribed to a wide range of publications across the world. I mentioned about this to General Tomar who was till very recently at that time the Commandant of the College and had moved out as a Corps Commander. I had served under him in the Army HQ ,Military Secretary’s Branch during 1984-85 as an Asst Military Secretary when he was the Additional Military Secretary there. His response surprised me. He said while he could provide the best collection of books and periodicals in the College library , he was not very happy with the performance of the library . According to him ,the true measure of success of a library is its utilization factor. How many times,each book or magazine or video has been drawn by the faculty /students for study or research connected with their work . An impressive  collection is of no use if the library is not utilized to its full extent! I found out the General was right when I observed later that many costly books procured by the library were not even touched by anyone for long !

Is such libraries relevant in this digital age ? . I will say , YES !. May be I am not born after the advent of Internet , but many youngsters  will also agree with me that the charm of holding a book in its print format in your hand is something which you sadly miss while using a kindle or browsing the net.  No wonder, there is a caption at the entrance of the main library of MCEME [ Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering ] at Secunderabad , where I served as the DEAN for Management Training during 1995-96 before retiring from the Army. The caption said “Medicine for the Soul “

Back at my desk with blogs – After a gap of 30 months!!

I do not really know why I discontinued my blogs after April 2015 – lack of interest , or new avenues of expression in the digital world like Twitter , Facebook or later WhatsApp ? .My motivation to resume suddenly presented itself when I am back in the  US after a gap of four years ,this time for a longer stay having taken my “third retirement ” from active work life [ more about it to follow] . I did write in between in another site <guftagu@amolak.in> managed by General [Retd] Surjit Singh ,VSM with whom I worked in Sikkim during the early 80’s.

There has been great developments in the fields of Technology , Business , Political Scene in India , US and elsewhere in the world , and also in the field of Cricket , my favorite theme for some blogs in the past. While SMAC, AI , IoT , Machine Learning etc transformed Business especially in its digital Avatar , The BJP Government under PM Narendra Modi not only ‘dug in ” deeply in India but also expanded its tentacles to many of the Indian States believed to be Congress Party bastions earlier . In the US , Republicans have come back to power after a long gap with Donald Trump as President , an interesting transition from his Business Empire to the White House . Nuclear Arms Race and danger arising from it and Climate Change at the center stage of  concerns for the humanity at large , BREXIT threatening the economic health of Europe , The Chinese economic prowess challenging  the US and others more than ever , no end to the Middle East crisis , Global Terrorism and its new version in the form of ISIS , an illusory century of energy independence claimed by the US , and many other global new trends have come to sharp focus during this time.

No doubt , we are living in very interesting times. The social media has come of age and is omnipotent and all pervasive!.  I intend to keep my dates with my blogs and also link them with other mediums like Facebook , WhatsApp,Twitter etc ,going forward.

While 246 blogs in a span of 90 months averages less than three blogs per month , I  am sure it was a good beginning . I hope to at least double it in the coming 90 months!

Late Malli Mastan Babu – Living for one’s calling !

The distinguished mountaineer from Nellore , India ,Late Malli Mastan Babu – his mortal remains has been laid to rest yesterday at his native place. A life lived fully according to one’s calling is over.

It was at a function at the Hyderabad International Convention Center organized by Atlanta Foundation run by close friend Deena Harappanahalli , a few years ago that I had a chance to listen to Malli Mastan Babu. He spoke with passion about his mountaineering pursuits – climbing a peak in every country in the world – one attempt per month continuously! Initially , I could not believe him . I do not think any mountaineer in the world has attempted something like this ever. You are practically climbing mountains 365 days in a year including preparations !. Mastan Babu was a one man enterprise and he seldom climbed in a team . He did not find it easy to relate his unique drive and passion to others.

A young zestful life ended abruptly in the pursuit of one’s calling in the upper reaches of the Andes, South America. The noble soul has reached the upper echelons having fulfilled his mission on earth.

Long live Malli Mastan Babu and all those values he personified.

Food,Cloth,Shelter and the Internet – A Strong Case for NET Neutrality

Our basic needs for survival from the Iron Age has been food,clothes,shelter and this has not changed till the advent of the digital age and the Internet. 25 years ago a new basic need emerged in the form of Internet and soon Wi Fi enabled meant nothing less than “Fresh Air enabled ” in importance. We are graduating from broad band facility to Wi fi enabled home to wi fi enabled zones and Cities. Netizens are already dreaming of a wi fi enabled world to live in.

It is in the above context that the new drive in India advocating NET NEUTRALITY assumes significance. The public outcry against premium routes and preferential pricing mechanisms serving corporate interests is very timely and the Government should take note of this when framing new regulations. The internet is too much of a good thing for essential public service and should not be subordinated to certain vested interests.

Let the NET be freely available as per the choice and needs of the user community and let there be a rational policy for pricing as per usage of data .

Brown Money

A survey report by OLX , the on line portal for sale of domestic used goods reveals that approximately Rs 5100 crores [about 828 million US dollars] worth used or unwanted goods are locked up in Indian homes . These are in many forms like furniture,electronic goods,books , kitchen items,clothes,travel items , toys and many such items.

Even though I have not yet given my stock and its value to OLX or any other such sites [ I may do so soon] , I must confess that I have quite a lot of such stuff with us yet to be sorted and disposed off. I have collected a lot of stuff right from my Army Days including mementos, trophies, key publications especially special issues and a lot of books – both fiction and non -fiction. One thing I regularly started doing is to give away a few items of utility during the annual “Joy of Giving ” week to charity. These are mainly clothes , old magazines , newspapers etc.

The CEO of OLX.in Amarjit Batra calls these assets “Brown Money” . According to him the potential of the used goods economy is compelling . In fact, what has surfaced is only the tip of the iceberg and we will need many OLX type portals to mine these assets and convert them in to cash for those who are willing to part with it.

From Page 3 to Facebook

In every city or society , people who matter always look for news about them or about their close friends with similar societal inclinations in Page 3 of the Print Media . This is more so among the urban elite who party every weekend . This mode of social recognition feeds the ego significantly.It does not matter if the general public do not recognize them. The news with or without photos should appear at Page 3 of the Newspaper!

Come Facebook – the break through innovation in social media !. While Page 3 has no recall value , Facebook provides not only lasting recall value but instant feed back to you through the wonderful tool ” Like ” button. Many friends write detailed comments as well. What a pleasant transition from Page 3 !

Many people load Facebook with not only write ups but with Complete photo album at times right from their birth from the family collection. Everyone is happy and enjoy the social network.Move over Page 3.