Random musings…
The ones that got written down.

less is more

Adding 0.7ml of acetone per liter of fuel in the tank of your car will ensure you have smooth cold starts, smooth idling, better fuel burn, better mileage, better pickup and generally much better injector health on your car… if you put more than that you might end up with cleaner injector health however the rest of the benefits will fall away, if you put in less all the other benefits stay (depends on how much lesser)… essentially less is more. This is voodoo science which I have found very accurate over the 400K kms that I’ve driven over the past 15 odd years.

But this one is not about spiking the fuel in your car to get better performance. We have had a house help who has been with us for over 15 years now. The first time we needed a house help was when we got married, before that I had a pretty nomad like existence and took care of my home on my own. So this lady, Kulsum, came to work with us once we started looking for someone to handle the cleaning, cooking etc. for the house. That was back in 2004 this is 2020. Over the years she has successfully managed to steer us through two child births and then helped us bring those children up as well, she has seen us move house twice and often gets recipes from the moms on the phone. So much so that now we just give her the funds she needs for all the procurement including daily essentials and she gives us a list of things to get from amazon whenever she feels there is a requirement a very well oiled system is in place. Essentially the good old like a member of the family situation. In return we have ensured that she gets adequate compensation and lots of respect. Respect I feel is the most important ingredient in ensuring that employees are loyal and truthful.

But this one is not about how to successfully stick to one maid for over 15 years either. The lockdown started on March 22nd in India. In Mumbai it had already started around ten days back. So Kulsum had had to stop coming to our house since the norm in all highly evolved societies, that the rich and powerful live in, it that the first person to get ostracized is the filthy house help who takes care of your mess! What if they bring disease to the house? Ban them. Since March we’ve been taking care of the house along with the kids. It’s not a big deal and at this point almost 3 months in I am worried I might actually miss the cooking, cleaning routine once maids are let back in. We’ve all become quite efficient at procuring/cooking food, taking care of the dishes, loading/unloading the washing machine then sorting/folding the clothes, sweeping/mopping the floor and cleaning the washrooms.

This one is also not about how we have managed to become self sufficient at taking care of ourselves. So at the end of March we called up Kulsum and asked her whether we should deposit the whole salary in her account or part of it. How greedy of us!! Bear with me…. so the thing is that a few months back Kulsums bank account had been wiped clean by some hackers. Of course we paid her again in cash because how else would she manage the expenses for two kids who are her sole responsibility. After that we switched to not paying the whole salary into the bank account and instead only putting what she needs for the automated transfers, LIC premium and a home loan EMI. The rest we used to give in cash. So yeah the question was not exactly about us being crafty and not wanting to pay her the salary. It was more about tell us when you are going to the ATM we will transfer just before you go so that there is no money left in the bank for hackers once you pick it up. The reply that came back would make anyone take a deep breath and reconsider what life is all about. She says “I have not worked for the whole month, it feels wrong taking the whole salary. Besides I do not have any big expenses because kids are not going to tuition and since everything is closed we are not having any excessive expenses either. So just send 5k for now because I need to pay the electricity bill and rent. Apart from that as and when I really need money for something I will call and ask”. Since then she has called thrice and has still not worked her way through the salary for March. Once when the cyclone caused a lot of damage to her hut, again when an old injury flared up and required a trip to the hospital and another time around eid because all the neighbors were expecting her to treat them to mutton biryani as she does every year. On our part we’ve put aside her salary for April and May in a separate account knowing that whenever things improve this will belong to her rightfully.

This is what this one is about. Magnanimity and the absence of greed in those who need the most help right now. Juxtapose this act of generosity, truthfulness and large heartedness from a house help against how big businesses, schools and hospitals are behaving. Private hospitals overnight have developed packages running into lakhs of rupees for Covid care, the countries richest corporate houses announced across the board salary cuts and eliminated this years bonuses/increments, schools scampered to switch to online teaching with more of an eye on fee collection than anything else unmindful of the fact that there is a child involved as well in this whole equation who might be feeling all lost and at odds with the changed methodology. One of my own tenants, an extremely well off business family considering they can afford to pay the rent for a 3BHK just to house the newly married son, stopped paying rent a couple of months back. Eventually I called to ask and we amicably settled for a 40% reduction in rent till the crisis continues.

It all seems as if the rich had zero contingency in place. All the years of earning obscene profits and salting away in high risk high yield avenues had made them completely bankrupt. So much for all those fancy name consulting firms doing the DRP/BCP for all businesses and all those alphabet soup certifications of excellence. Schools are having teachers call up parents, who haven’t paid, and thanking them for having paid the fees which in turn ensured that the teacher got paid, a subtle nudge so to speak. So many people on LinkedIn are looking for jobs. I’m not even going to get started on how the government is behaving with migrant laborers. In a nutshell bankruptcy of the heart is what we are witnessing especially in those who have something. No one really listened to their financial advisor when he said keep six months of contingency funds in a highly liquid bank account for unforeseen circumstances.

We all need to readjust our profit mindsets. Understand that making money did not help us with the Covid situation, we’re all equally susceptible. We have been reduced to greedy people fighting over scraps… businesses not willing to cut profits on products and services, schools not willing to reduce fees even though the infrastructure costs are all but removed, hospitals milking desperation by levying even higher costs, parents not willing to pay the school fees even though there has been no real impact on their income (in some cases), tenants not willing to pay rent just because they can get away with it and landlords being difficult in some cases just because they can… money has made scavengers out of humans. This is a time when we have a chance, a chance to be generous, reduce our greed quotient and reclaim humanity. Unlike the poor it seems the rich have so much less to give and share. At some point hopefully we will understand that what we need is what we should take and leave the rest for the rest. Having become all advanced and developed did not serve us at all well if a poor house help has a lesson to teach all of us even after all this pseudo sophistication of our lives.

Earlier today while driving past a Croma store the gravity of the situation became clearer to me. There was a mile long queue, I kid you not, at least 1.5km with no social distancing. A little later as I was passing by the entrance I realized why, there was a banner announcing a laptop carnival. All of them looking like harried parents waiting to get into Croma and buy a laptop for their kids. Just so the kids could attend the online classes that the schools have so generously announced. Dell spends anywhere from 7000 to 21000 INR to manufacture a laptop. Dell sells this laptop for anywhere from 35000 to 140000. This is what has to change (Dell is just one example). The profit mindset needs to change. We need to see how we can help rather than how much can we make out of any transaction. Long term this will actually work well for the brands as well. Customers will be loyal to those who rose up to the occassion rather than those that continued to milk the situation… Greed has to end if the world wants to get rid of the crisis we are in. Just ending a lockdown does not end the misery, in fact it is only the start of the long battle ahead…. a battle that has to be fought together taking everyone along because even a few left behind will mean that the virus mutates and comes back harder…

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