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December 6, 2016

Treatment of parents

Filed under: common man, family, social change — neosurya @ 17:23

I had a friend (A) who posed a problem a few days ago: We were speaking about taking care of his father (B). B had a regular job, but did not take particular care of his kids. Each day after office, B came home for a short while in the evening, and stayed to himself. Income was regular, and the mother of A was efficient. So, the kids were able to get a good childhood. But it was very clear that B had no real role in their upbringing. A’s life was not ruined because B’s income was more than sufficient. B however, was totally disinterested in family life.

B (the father), and B’s wife (A’s mother) were living in Bangalore. A’s mother had recently passed away. Till the mom was alive, A and his siblings (a sister in India and a brother who was in USA) would visit B occasionally. Festivals and other customary visits were kept up. B and his wife regularly visited A and siblings also. For about 3-4 months a year, B and his wife would come and stay with A. But there was no real love lost between B and rest of the family.

B continued to visit his kids after his wifes death. But B was not a pleasant person to be with. His friends were no more, and he would continuously complain about one thing or the other. No major physical or financial damage, but there would be no fatherly (or grand-fatherly)  involvement as well. He would have an unpleasant face all through the day, and entering his room was like seeing a person who is sulking his way to the other world. B would be extremely particular about his schedule, food habits, and general preferences about daily life.

The challenge was that B was going to be over 80. There was no disease in particular, but he was getting old. Senility was bringing on other challenges.

A argued that B should be sent to an old home while B was still in OK health. Once health went down further, argued A, it will be difficult for B to adjust to an old home. B did not want to be sent to an old home. B was saying that to get his (substantial) self-gained property, A and his siblings must take care of B at home.

I had seen another father once like this. An old man, in his 80’s living near Tarnaka, Osmania University, Hyderabad. I had gone to him to seek legal advise. His room was on the first floor of the garage of an independent villa in Tarnaka. The villa was his own, but he had given the whole place for rent. His servant lived downstairs in the garage, and he lived upstairs. The room had a desk with an old transistor radio facing a window that overlooked the street. An old teak bed had been set towards one of the walls with a grayed out mosquito net that had seen more regal times. There were about 3 chairs in the room, but only one was empty. The others had huge stacks of letters and legal correspondence. There was a bookshelf on one side which recessed into the wall. It also probably held his clothes.

While discussing the legal problem, I had mentioned that I was from such and such company. The father slowly got out his sons card, and said you know him – “He is the senior Engg VP of ***. Do you know him? He is also into IT.”. This old man’s son was a very senior executive in a global multinational company. When I say senior, really senior – like the VP of a major engg. division of a Fortune 500 firm. He could have been my bosses bosses boss. The father was speaking about his son with pride, but it was apparent that he could not live with the son either. The old father made a point to mention that all his grandkids visit him during major festivals. “Even if they miss some due to exams, they come during Deepavali for sure.”, he said.

I have seen some unfortunate mothers’, father-in-laws, and mother-in-laws also in the same situation. Maybe there were good reasons to do this. Maybe the women or men created unhappy situations in the family. Maybe the father or mother were more nasty and looked mellow to strangers. Maybe there are some worse family secrets. Maybe this is a necessary feature of our modern, liberal, urban lifestyle. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I wonder, If we cannot take care of a mother and father who gave us birth, can we be good to complete strangers? If we give second chances to a terrorist, a murderer, a common criminal, why not parents? Maybe it is wishful thinking on part of a liberal society that humans are good. Maybe there is no true love among humans. Maybe. Maybe not.

December 5, 2016

Real Job? What real job?

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 11:43

Very few of us are doing real jobs. I try explaining this to friends sometimes, but am left speechless by their inability to fathom the very evident truth. This article sums up my one liner very nicely. Quote:

When it comes to garbage collectors, though, it’s different. Any way you look at it, they do a job we can’t do without. And the harsh truth is that an increasing number of people do jobs that we can do just fine without. Were they to suddenly stop working the world wouldn’t get any poorer, uglier, or in any way worse. Take the slick Wall Street traders who line their pockets at the expense of another retirement fund. Take the shrewd lawyers who can draw a corporate lawsuit out until the end of days. Or take the brilliant ad writer who pens the slogan of the year and puts the competition right out of business.

Instead of creating wealth, these jobs mostly just shift it around.

Of course, there’s no clear line between who creates wealth and who shifts it. Lots of jobs do both. There’s no denying that the financial sector can contribute to our wealth and grease the wheels of other sectors in the process. Banks can help to spread risks and back people with bright ideas. And yet, these days, banks have become so big that much of what they do is merely shuffle wealth around, or even destroy it. Instead of growing the pie, the explosive expansion of the banking sector has increased the share it serves itself.

Or take the legal profession. It goes without saying that the rule of law is necessary for a country to prosper. But now that the U.S. has 17 times the number of lawyers per capita as Japan, does that make American rule of law 17 times as effective? Or Americans 17 times as protected? Far from it. Some law firms even make a practice of buying up patents for products they have no intention of producing, purely to enable them to sue people for copyright infringement.

Bizarrely, it’s precisely the jobs that shift money around – creating next to nothing of tangible value – that net the best salaries. It’s a fascinating, paradoxical state of affairs. How is it possible that all those agents of prosperity – the teachers, the police officers, the nurses – are paid so poorly, while the unimportant, superfluous, and even destructive shifters do so well?

In fact, it has become increasingly profitable not to innovate. Imagine just how much progress we’ve missed out on because thousands of bright minds have frittered away their time dreaming up hypercomplex financial products that are ultimately only destructive. Or spent the best years of their lives duplicating existing pharmaceuticals in a way that’s infinitesimally different enough to warrant a new patent application by a brainy lawyer so a brilliant PR department can launch a brand-new marketing campaign for the not-so-brand-new drug.

Imagine that all this talent were to be invested not in shifting wealth around, but in creating it. Who knows, we might already have had jetpacks, built submarine cities, or cured cancer.

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