Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dabbawalas of Mumbai

 Dabbawalas in Mumbai

The dabbawalas (also spelled dabbawallas or dabbawallahs, called tiffin wallahs in older sources) constitute a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work in India, especially in MumbaiWhen literally translated, the word "dabbawala" means "one who carries a box" .The lunchboxes are picked up in the late morning, delivered predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returned empty in the afternoon. They are also used by meal suppliers in Mumbai, who pay them to ferry lunchboxes with ready-cooked meals from central kitchens to customers and back.

Scurrying across the city from Virar to Nariman Point, from Kalyan to VT, about 5000  dabbawalas today manage about 2,50,000 dabbas between them!

Dabbawalas are the people who work hard , just not for the sake of food , but for others well being. It is rightly said- to quench others hunger is the greatest deed in the world.

Origin of Dubbawala service and the present position:

In 1890 Bombay, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started a lunch delivery service with about a hundred men. In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas. Later, a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's Association. The current president of the association is Bhau Saheb Karbande and Subhash Talekar is the spokesperson.

As the city grew, the demand for Dabba delivery grew too. The coding system created by our forefather is still prominent in 21st century. Initially it was simple colour coding but now since Mumbai is widely spread metro with 3 local train routes, our coding has also evolved into alpha numeric characters.

How the system works effectively?

A colour-coding system identifies the destination and recipient. Each dabbawala is required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the form of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white Gandhi cap (topi). Each month there is a division of the earnings of each unit. Fines are imposed for alcohol, tobacco, being out of uniform, and absenteeism.
A collecting dabbawala, usually on bicycle, collects dabbas either from a worker's home or from the dabba makers. 
dabba, or Indian-style tiffin box
As many of the carriers are of limited literacy (the average literacy of Dabbawallahs is that of 8th grade the dabbas (boxes) have some sort of distinguishing mark on them, such as a colour or group of symbols.
Box coding
The dabbawala then takes them to a sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the railway station to unload the boxes and the destination building delivery address. Some modern infrastructure improvements such as the Navi Mumbai Metro are not used in the supply chain, as cabins do not have the capacity for hundreds of tiffins.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them to the customers in their offices..Once the dabbas have been delivered to their offices, the entire procedure is repeated backwards. Dabbawalas now scamper across the city to collect the empty boxes, and then deliver them back home. It is a nine-hour work cycle of extremely demanding labour, ensuring that the cook and the consumer get their tiffins in time. Perhaps it is this punishing physical labour that holds back women from joining the dabbawalas - it remains a male bastion. The dabbawalas also allow for delivery requests through SMS.
How efficient is this service?
The president of the Mumbai Tiffinmen’s Association claims that dabbawalas only make a mistake once in every six millions deliveries, translating to about one going missing every other month. It works so well that it has been studied by Harvard Business School and is reportedly the envy of FedEx. Several management experts across the globe use Mumbai dabbawalas as a case study, citing their near-perfect managerial operations
What’s the financial cost for this time-saving exercise? 
Around 450 rupees a month – depending on distance. That’s about the average for a sandwich and a packet of crisps in a city, let alone a delivered meal. And on the other end of the deal, each dabbawala is self-employed and paid the same, around 8,000 rupees a month, translating to about . It’s seen as a job for life, where the workers live by the philosophy, “Anna daan is maha daan”, translating to donating food is the best charity.

Prince  Charles was so impressed with their service that he had even invited 2  Dabbawalas to his marriage with Camilla Parker in London.

Roti Bank:

In December 2015, the Mumbai Dabbawala Association (MDA) came up with a plan to feed the destitute, needy and homeless people of the city. 

This initiative gave birth to the 'Roti Bank' - an association collects leftover food from functions and distributes it among the poor. Since its advent, their waste management drive has saved Rs 40 lakh worth of food from getting wasted.

"From the eyes of dabbawalas, Mumbai as a city has two different sides. On one hand are the well-to-do families which generate humongous food waste and on the other hand is the downtrodden society that cannot even afford one meal in a day. Being one of the largest food delivery services in India, we thought it was our duty to bridge the gap between two and thus was born Roti Bank" said Subhash Talekar, the man behind the initiative, reports NDTV

The MDA team has collaborated with many caterers, wedding planners and food joints across Mumbai. They also accept donations from individuals, communities or anyone who wants to help feed people. They then travel to different locations, collect food, check its hygienic standards and then distribute it within the next 3-4 hours. On an average, they serve 300-400 people on a daily basis. 

They go to hospitals, railway stations, slums, religious institutes and  everywhere else that catches their eye. They engage themselves in drives, initiatives, events and encourage people to donate more and  waste less food. 

Clothing Bank:
In the same vein, they have also kickstarted a 'Clothing Bank', collecting discarded clothes for the same purpose. It's quite amazing the kind of ambition the MDA team has taken for the welfare of people.

It is heartwarming to see what we as humans can do for our fellow beings if we have the right intent. Thanks to these guys lesser people sleep on an empty stomach and if join hands, maybe, one day, no one will go hungry. 

We salute the spirit and deeds of the dabbawalas! You guys are awesome.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Is Settling in USA worth it for Indians?

Image result for indian families life in usa
With so many Indians taking up jobs in USA and settling there to enjoy better life, we can see in any major Airport in India not less than 100 persons travelling to USA daily. We can see both younger persons who are going to study or to take up a new job in USA or returning after a brief vacation in India and also senior citizens who are travelling to the country for a brief stay with their wards.
Image result for passengers in Indian airports

But how many of us know if all the persons who have moved to USA and settled there with Green cards are living happily or regretting their decision of settling there.  Here is an interesting article by Mr. Venkat Ankam( Lives in Fairfax VA)  posted  QUORA Q & A

Let me portray the typical life cycle of Indians in the USA with their living conditions and then I will let you decide whether settling in the USA is worth or not.

As an Indian immigrant in the USA, I have been asking myself this question for a quite long time. The reality is 95% of the Indian immigrants are settling in the US and only 5% of the immigrants are going back to India. I wondered if the “Major chunk(95%) of people settling in the US are making a wise decision or the small chunk(5%) of people going back are making a bad decision?” So I asked this question to my friends and colleagues from the 95% category but I could not get any subtle or profound answers. It looked like people are just following the crowd or falling into the trap, and not be able to go back later in life. So I did my own research asking specific set of survey questions to different age people. So let me share my findings.

First of all, why do Indians migrate to the US? One single answer for this question is scope for higher income, savings, low stress and a happy life without any common issues we experience in India. Now let's see how these objectives are met during the life cycle of these Indian immigrants. Let me use the word NRI to describe them better.

My survey was limited to NRIs in the field of science and technology who are mostly in working class and also to a few business class NRIs as well. I took ratings on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 is low and 10 is high) for earnings, savings, stress levels, family relationships and happiness from different age categories with their typical activities in their life cycle. I realized that not every NRI in the US opens up because of ‘private space’ concept. So I chose people I have good relationship with and who are really open and can share feelings of their life. The Survey was conducted with a casual talk/discussion rather than a professional way of conducting surveys.

Based on the survey results and experiences shared by participants, I categorized the life cycle of immigrants into four different generic phases (Transform, Settle, Growth and Suffer) as shown in the graph below. Every person’s life is different so the depicted life cycle or living conditions may not apply to every NRI. It may vary for few people and life events may overlap between phases. This might be totally different for the new NRIs coming to the US because of longer green card wait time and ever changing immigration policies.

Now let me describe these phases with typical life events.

Transform Phase (21 to 28 years): 
This an excitement phase which starts right from India after getting the US visa. One tries to get to know the culture of the US, what to do before and after entering the US and starts living the American Dream. Parents feel proud of this great achievement by their kids and start making big expectations and hopes. Starts sharing this news to neighbors and relatives and throw a big party as if their kid already succeeded in life. Arrives in the US without the awareness that he/she broke generations of living together and unity in their families. Typically nobody think or care about how life will be in the US after 40s, 50s or 60s in this stage. One gets really amazed with the best infrastructure of America and starts loving it. Gets used to American life style with few hiccups. Starts making some money and will have parties, shopping, vacation trips and realizes that life is very comfortable in the US. Transfers money to India to support family and talks to relatives and friends and shares the greatness of America. Parents will start looking for a bride/groom. Starts green card process to continue living in American dream.

NRIs are very happy in this phase with lots of excitement and joy that American life brings in.

Settle Phase (28 to 40 years): 
After a couple of trips to India, gets married and spouse arrives in the US. Couple is very happy in the beginning with vacation trips and parties. Realizes that expenses are higher than living as a bachelor. First baby arrives and parents and in-laws visit America. Advances in green card process, switches jobs and moves to new locations. Second baby arrives and then visits India with kids. Realizes that their parents are not quite happy staying alone in India. Also realizes that India has changed a lot and quite expensive than ever. Thinks that they may not be able to fit in India and also India is not a right fit for the kids. NRIs usually decides to go on the path of settling down in the US with a backup plan of going back. Buys Town Home/Condo and switches to luxury cars. Realizes that single income is not really sustainable in the US. Wife decides to do a job instead of getting bored at home. So Income doubles, savings doubles but stress levels go up.. Green card arrives and they feel relaxed of immigration issues. Vacation trips becomes hard with little kids so no big vacations.

Happiness level comes down due to missing family relationships and not able to take care of ageing parents.

Growth Phase (40 to 50 years): 
Moves on career ladder and starts making big bucks and also start making big bucks from secondary sources of income like stocks. Some might start a startup company or any business. Usually pretty busy with kids school and extra curricular activities. Buys a single family home and moves to a bigger home. Kids are grown up now so vacations are back. Parents are not able to visit because they don’t like to stay in the US. Also parent’s health will become a big concern. Makes few arrangements for parents in India but they are always temporary. Few realize that their friends in India have made more money in India than them. Realizes that they need to focus more on health aspects so starts some physical activities to keep their body fit.

Higher income, higher savings and most successful phase (professionally) for most people but happiness level further comes down because of lack of relationships.

Suffer Phase (Above 50 years): 
Kids usually finish their high school and go to a college.. All savings will vanish in kids college education. Kids finish their education and start their job at a different place in the US. The couple is alone at big home away from parents and away from kids. They cannot think of going back because of kids and setting up everything from scratch in India would be a daunting task. Whenever they visit India they clearly see that family relationships are faded away because of settling in US. Most people thought that early in growth phase would have been an ideal situation to go back to India before kids enters middle school with a mind set of going back in settle phase.

Most people expressed that “We got everything we wanted in life, but we lost all relationships”. Some people expressed concern like “I wish I knew the downsides or effects of immigration later in the life”.

Starts indulging deeply in social and charity activities to keep them busy and also for social recognition. Usually takes up American citizenship in this phase while some takes up in growth phase only.

Works until 65 years of age to pay off mortgage and retires at the age of 65. After 65 years they start getting social security and healthcare benefits from government. But they continue to work in some retirement jobs to keep them busy or to earn some extra income for unknown expenses.

Just to summarize, life is happy in the beginning but happiness tends to fade away and brings suffering to life after 50s. Materialistic culture of America makes you a successful person professionally and materialistically, but deserts your life. 

One interesting observation during this study — most of the people who immigrated to America had no plans to settle in the US and most of the settled ones said, “We are not sure we might go back”.

Every NRI looks like a happy person from outside but everyone has a dark side story to tell from inside of their heart.

Life in the US rotates around profession, immigration process and kids. NRIs tend to “sacrifice their life for kids of next generation.” Kids seems to be happy with no complaints about life as they are in young age; the second generation, Indian-Americans, will have friends but might not have family relationships too? So they might end up in the same boat after 50 years age? Needs further research…

Thanks to my friends, colleagues and elders from community who humbly shared their deep thoughts from life for this small write-up and also helping me to make a strong decision to go back to India.

Hope this helps. Everybody’s requirements are different. So just a make a firm decision to settle here or to go back based on your own requirements and priorities, not based on what other NRIs are doing.

People who expressed negative sentiment are still in transform phase in US or few youngsters in India (Probably with American dream)
Interestingly this was found to be true for other immigrants/expats too, not just Indians.

Most of them expressed a feeling that this is a problem for the first generation of immigrants. Later generations will not have such problems. Need to research this further.

Many people who expressed positive sentiment felt that situation might be similar in India as well. Need to research more in this area. 

Courtesy: Mr. Venkat Ankam( Lives in Fairfax VA)  posted  QUORA Q & A

Saturday, February 17, 2018

TIps to improve the quality of our Life

Image result for ben shahar harvard
Ben Shahar

Did you know that at Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the most popular and successful course teaches you how to learn to be happier?

The Positive Psychology class taught by Ben Shahar attracts 1400 students per semester and 20% of Harvard graduates take this elective course. Ben Shaha is the author of the international best sellers Happier and Being Happy, which have been translated into 25 languages.
  • Being Happy: You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life (2010) originally published in hardcover as The Pursuit of Perfect (2010)
  • Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment (2007)
 Image result for ben shahar harvard
  • A Clash of Values: The Struggle for Universal Freedom (2002)
  • Heaven Can Wait: Conversations With Bonny Hicks (1998)

According to Ben Shahar, the class - which focuses on happiness, self-esteem and motivation - gives students the tools to succeed and face life with more joy.

This 35-year-old teacher, considered by some to be "the happiness guru", highlights in his class 14 key tips for improving the quality of our personal status and contributing to a positive life:

🚩Tip 1. Thank God for everything you have:  
Write down 10 things you have in your life that give you happiness. Focus on the good things!
🚩Tip 2. Physical Activity:
Practice physical activity Experts say exercising helps improve mood. 30 minutes of exercise is the best antidote against sadness and stress.
🚩Tip 3. Breakfast: 
Some people miss breakfast for lack of time or not to get fat. Studies show that breakfast gives you energy, helps you think and perform your activities successfully.
🚩Tip 4. Be Assertive: 
Ask what you want and say what you think. Being assertive helps improve your self-esteem. Being left and remaining silent creates sadness and hopelessness.
🚩Tip 5. Spend your money on experiences..
a study found that 75% of people felt happier when they invested their money in travel, courses and classes; While only the rest said they felt happier when buying things.
🚩Tip 6. Face your challenges:
 Studies show that the more you postpone something, the more anxiety and tension you generate. Write short weekly lists of tasks and complete them.
🚩Tip 7. Put everywhere nice memories, phrases and photos of your loved ones:
 Fill your fridge, your computer, your desk, your room, YOUR LIFE of beautiful memories.
🚩Tip 8. Always greet and be nice to other people: 
More than 100 inquiries state that just smiling changes the mood.
🚩Tip 9. Wear comfortable shoes: 
If your feet hurt you, you become moody, says Dr. Keinth Wapner, President of the American Orthopedics Association.
🚩Tip 10. Take care of your posture: 
Walk straight with your shoulders slightly backwards and the front view helps to maintain a good mood.
🚩Tip 11. Listen to music (Praise God): 
It is proven that listening to music awakens you to sing, this will make your life happy.
🚩Tip 12. What you eat has an impact on your mood:- 
Do not skip meals, eat lightly every 3 to 4 hours and keep glucose levels stable.- Avoid excess white flour and sugar.- Eat everything! Healthy- Vary your food.
🚩Tip 13. Take care of yourself and feel attractive:
70% of people say they feel happier when they think they look good.
🚩Tip 14. Fervently believe in God: 
With him nothing is impossible! 

Happiness is like a remote control, we lose it every time, we go crazy looking for it and many times without knowing it, we are sitting on top of it ...