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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Stop Learning!

The new tagline of KBC - “If you stop learning in life, you stop winning” is so opposite of the saying - “Ignorance is bliss”- in which many believe, especially, perhaps, the people in the U.S., as it seems from their day-to-day life.

Average American's ignorance starts from the first grade in elementary school he goes to. So that his mind is not over burdened, school syllabi is over simplified--no counting tables, no spelling drills and of course, no geography or general knowledge. In higher classes, grammar gets the go bye and old classics can be skipped from reading. In adult life, media adds to his ignorance by ignoring the world outside of the US. But all his ignorance does not bother him. General knowledge is generally out of any conversation, even from career oriented interviews. Average American truly feels that 'GK' is fine only for those who aspire to be in 'Jeopardy', the most prized program on TV. And why learn more when lack of knowledge is no hinderance to him in enjoying a satisfying life style. It is only when they found that most coveted career jobs were being cornered by immigrants from India, China and Japan because of their far better foundation in learning that they seem to have slowly woken from their slumber and started to learn more with motivation to win in the job market. In other words, they have realized the truth of the current season KBC tagline.

On the other hand, Chinese did not lose any time to really grasp the great KBC tagline, even before it was coined, when they realized that they could never overtake India in global standing until they overcome their only weakness – lack of knowledge of English language, of which Indians were the masters. Determined to do their best in global business, especially to win the race with their arch competitor India, Chinese took to learning English like it was for them a 'do or die' challenge. As reported by the New Yorker magazine reporter - “ China has been in the grip of “English fever,” as the phenomenon is known in Chinese, for more than a decade. A vast national appetite has elevated English to something more than a language: it is not simply a tool but a defining measure of life’s potential. China today is divided by class, opportunity, and power, but one of its few unifying beliefs—something shared by waiters, politicians, intellectuals, tycoons—is the power of English. Every college freshman must meet a minimal level of English comprehension, and it’s the only foreign language tested. English has become an ideology, a force strong enough to remake your résumé, attract a spouse, or catapult you out of a village. Linguists estimate the number of Chinese now studying or speaking English at between two hundred million and three hundred and fifty million, a figure that’s on the order of the population of the United States. English private schools, study gadgets, and high-priced tutors vie for pieces of that market. The largest English school system, New Oriental, is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”

KBC tagline also instantly transported my thoughts from California, where I live now, to New Delhi, my beloved city back home in India. We loved our Delhi as it was, without ever minding its down side relating to public etiquette so random there. We never cared if Delhi did not care to improve learning from other cities with better road sense, especially Mumbai, which was considered the most cultured city in the country. After I came to know of the KBC tagline and your repeated requests in its promos - “That's why I always tell never stop learning – seekhna bund, jeetna bund" - , I very much wish Delhi follows the tagline earnestly and starts learning, at least some street etiquette, and improves on what it is stuck with for ages:

1. If my side of the road has a traffic jam, then I can start driving on the wrong side of the road, and all incoming cars will be re-routed .

2. If there is a queue of many people, no one will notice me sneaking into the front as long as I am looking the other way.

3. If a traffic light is not working, four cars from different directions can easily pass through one another.

4. If I indicate which way I am going to turn my vehicle, it is an information security leak.

5. The more I lean out of my car or bus, and the harder I spit, the stronger the roads become.

6. If I get a call on my mobile phone, the car automatically goes on.

7. When I'm on the road to marriage, all the roads in the city belong to me.

8.When I double-park my car, the road automatically widens so that the traffic is not affected.

9. When I park and block someone else's car I am giving him a chance to pause, relax, chill and take a few moments off from his rushed day

10. There are only 3 important persons in this city -Me, I, Myself.

When I moved to California I found the Californians over concerned with the following basic norms of public etiquette, which we in Delhi would have found very flimsy to worry about:

1. Rules for navigating a crowded sidewalk or hallway are the same as the ones for the road. You walk on the right and pass on the left. And people shouldn't walk more than two abreast. Blocking the path of others gets on nerves - a couple walking in front of you on a narrow path, talking to each other as they go and choose not to see - when someone is right behind them waiting for them to make a little room so that they can get past.

2. A young man walking with a young woman should be careful that his manner in no way draws attention to her or to himself. Too devoted a manner is always conspicuous, and so is loud talking. All people in the streets, or anywhere in public, should be careful not to talk too loud.

3. To claim a parking spot when everyone's clamoring for the next open one, use your blinker to show you've claimed a spot. Never park in the disabled spot. These zones are reserved for people less able than you to use, and you really shouldn’t jump in there just because it’s a foot closer than the other space.

4. The number one annoyance while watching a movie is the amount of people that talk during a film at the cinema. The second annoyance is, of course, mobile/cell phones. There are advertisements at the start of the movie asking you to switch these devices off. Don't bolt from your seat as soon as 'The End' sign appears on the screen. Exit one row at a time. Pretend you're leaving a church after a wedding.

5. At some cash registers (in fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and drugstores), if it's not clear whether customers should form separate lines at each register or stand in a single line, go with the flow―even if the flow feels like chaos. Don't bother trying to whip the rest of the crowd into shape.

6. It's impolite to read over a person's shoulder. People have to have their own space. Leaning into someone's personal space is inappropriate.

7. Public Display of Affection (PDA) should be avoided as far as possible. It may be alright when you meet someone or say goodbye. However, there are certain public displays of affection that people can’t stand, and these tend to be the new couples who are still in the exciting part of their relationship.

8. It seems that a lot of people are not well-versed when it comes to public toilet etiquette. If the door says OCCUPIED then no need to TRY TO FORCE IT OPEN. And once you DO find an empty stall then for the love of God PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR! WASH YOUR HANDS. It takes less than two minutes to drop a bit of soap on your hands, run them under the tap and dry them…and best of all - it’s free!

9. Because public pools are open to all, personal hygiene and a consideration for others should be top priorities. Shower before entering the pool.

10. Litter dropping is strictly prohibited with heavy penalty imposed. It annoys when people leave empty bottles on public transport as they get off, and it annoys even more when you are walking down the street and see someone cast aside a piece of paper - usually from some junk food they are eating - even though they are walking towards, or have just walked past, a trash can.

The bottom-line of Public Etiquette is - consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built. The first rule of etiquette is never do anything that is unpleasant to others. In a rapidly shrinking world where we can fly halfway around the world in less than half the day, it is time for Delhi to adhere to the unwritten laws of public etiquette universally acceptable. Learn Delhi learn! It is never too late to learn. Always remember the KBC tagline – actually Big B will never let you forget it as long as the KBC season is on - “Seekhna Bund To Jeetna Bund” (if you stop learning, you stop winning).

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live for ever.” - Mahatma Gandhi


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