Contribution of Technical University Eindhoven to Teach Civic Sense among Students

We love walking a lot. So when we were comfortably settled in the new abode at Eindhoven, we wanted to stroll around—initially near to the place of residence so that we may not lose our way back home! It was difficult for us to remember the name of her apartment as Dutch names are difficult to remember and much more difficult to pronounce. So we were a little worried of the uncertainty that loomed in our mind but still chose to stroll about, keeping close to the vicinity.

We watched a lot many youngsters biking happily on the cycle-path. Some great hustle and bustle seemed in the area. Out of curiosity we walked closer and found some celebrations on what seemed like a campus of an educational university. I remembered my daughter telling us that just a few meters at the back of our residence is the University of Technology located in Eindhoven. I remembered her telling us, jokingly, that noting like “getting lost” could happen to us, “If you ever feel that you have lost direction, just ask for directions to Technical University and you would be able to find my apartment!” I was sure that we were at the entrance to the park of technical University. Not very sure of whether to walk inside the campus or not, we stood for a while at the gate and then stepped in, still not much convinced.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-23 at 5.28.57 PM.jpegBut my inquisitiveness to find how students in a Technical University celebrate their cultural events and to compare them with how we celebrate back home took over the hesitation. But once inside; all the hesitation vanished away. People of all hues and colors were having a gala time. It was some sort of food food festival going on.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-23 at 5.26.54 PMThe aroma of the various food items emanating from food stalls, the sound of the music, the clatter of the young crowd, the clamping of small running feat added to the ambience which spoke of cultural amalgamation. Age, color or class had no barrier here. There was music and young people, the students, were dancing to the beats of music. Small kids were running around. Old people sat on the chairs or grass watching the life-at-its-best in the surrounding.

After enjoying the ambience for some time, we walked back to our apartment. We got to talk about the college fest and compared it with the fest on campus back home. The first and foremost observation that came to my mind was about the sound level of the music system kept within bearable limits. More surprise awaited me when I talked about it to my daughter. She told me that before any event on the campus of Technical University; residents of all the neighborhood apartments get a notification about the event informing them of the event, the timings and also the invitation. I quote from one of those notifications about the parties on campus that I found in her apartment mailbox:

Dear neighborhood resident:

…Because you live relatively close to the campus of the TU/e, it may be possible that you hear some noise from the parties and the campsite. Halfway during the evening, the sound level will be considerably lower than before, since the music from the parties is directed away from your house…we will do our best to minimize the   negative consequences…to make sure the neighboring residents will have as little as possible negative effects…Of course you are more than welcome to visit both tournaments.”

And after the event some groups of students seek feedback from the neighborhood residents whether they were duly informed about it or not and whether they were disturbed by it or any other comment that they wanted to make!

The civic sense is promoted by all the stakeholders and the students learn not only the course work but, more importantly, how to be responsible citizens. We sure could learn a thing or two from these seemingly small acts! Could we learn some lessons from Dutch society to raise our level in “happiness” index!

Some lessons to be learnt!!!

Europe Diary: C for Cigarette in Netherlands

DSC_0329.JPGThe clear blue skyline welcomes a visitor to most of the European countries at this point of the year. It is summers time… no more of grey and black colour to be seen anywhere. Summers have rejuvenated life of all living beings. The green plants are shining at their bestest green shine! The young, old and children are in their flowery and colorful summer dresses. There is colour everywhere…the colour of life. There seems to be no place for grey colour in this ambiance of summer. But something that I find extremely disturbing is the grayish smoky ambiance taking over under the clear skyline of Eindhoven! This gray doesn’t seem to gel with the overall ambiance of the Summers!Netherlands.skyline

And when I observe that the young and old damsel are contributing to this grayish smoky ambience, I am , all the more disturbed. I am sure that I have inhaled so much of smoke to my lungs in the past three days as would suffice me for life time. Or is it that I am being, too, harsh in my observation. It is not just the skyline that is turning gray with the smoke of the cigarettes but the grounds and roads, as well, are strewn with cigarette butts. Wherever you look around you, the butts of cigarettes stare hard at you—the cigarette butts that have had adored the lips of young and old alike but trampled under feet having served their purpose, stare hard at me. They seem to seek a respectable goodbye from people who have enjoyed when they burnt their life to give sensory pleasures to the users. The least these cigarette butts deserve is a decent burial…or is it too much to ask for.

Ciggarestes.JPGThe Netherlands is a clean country. The Dutch have such keen sense for cleanliness so why such disregard for strewn cigarettes butts adorning the, otherwise, clean grounds and roads.

Cigarette smoking is such a common sight in Netherlands that after a while my eyes had become accustomed to watching people smoking freely.

Though the Government is doing all that is within its power to curb the menace of smoking. The legal smoking age in the Netherlands is 18 years old. The sale of tobacco to children under 18 is illegal. People that are 25 years old and younger have to show an ID at the cashier. It is right that I have not come across any young child smoking even surreptitiously but of what use it is if they end up smoking once they get the license to smoke. And in return for a short-lived pleasure derived from cigarette smoking get some ailment.

Michel Rudolphie, KWF director, said in a press release: ‘It is often said that smoking is good for society from a financial perspective because it provides the treasury with tax revenue and smokers die at a younger age so do not use their pensions’. This research proves the opposite. Anti-tobacco initiatives would not only promote health but also contribute financially to society. Meanwhile, a Dutch woman with terminal lung cancer, Anne Marie van Veen, is putting together a group criminal case against cigarette producers for allegedly ‘deliberately damaging people’s health.’

I was really worried about the cigarette smoke that must be affecting even the non-smokers as these people are as much exposed to the harms of smoke as are the smokers. That is something on the down-side that I would rate Netherlands on! The more disturbing for me was a child’s bike and an empty cigarette pack lying side by side near a tree. If on the one hand I loved the child to be learning biking as a healthy life style as such an young age, on the other hand the empty pack of cigarettes heralded the danger of acquiring smoking when the child would grow up to be an adult.

The Netherlands sure have to find a way to cut down on cigarette smoking!

Europe Diary: “Living” at the Fag End of Life

It was Saturday…the weekly markets’ day in Eindhoven. We had gone to do groceries to the Farmers’ Market. Walking in the streets of Eindhoven, we came across many old people. They were making purchases at the market, putting them in the trolley bags and pulling them with all the power that they had in their aging limbs. I admired the way these people were “living” at the fag end of their life. More than the colorful clothes it was the colorful expression on their seasoned and wrinkled faces that brought a spontaneous “Hello” on the lips on everyone that they came in contact with! Old peopleWhat a way of life these people were living, I wondered! And why were they alone? Didn’t they have anyone to look after them? Where were the kids that they might have raised to be young men and women? Questions and more questions clouded my mind which were offset by the carefree and happy mode and mood of life that these oldies carried!

Old people 2 JPGIn the evening we, once again, went to the city market. This time we were on an easy mood…strolling and enjoying window shopping. My daughter pointed towards a corner where a lot many old people were sitting outside—gossiping and enjoying chilled, fresh beer!

“Come, let’s sit here!” She said.

Watching some hesitation on my face she smiled and coaxed me: “All these sitting there are oldies of your age!”

Though a little reluctant initially but I sat on a chair at the corner of the eatery. My daughter ordered beer—fresh beer. It was served by a smiling woman seemingly in her sixties. I was curious. The group of oldies sitting outside were enjoying life as much as the persons serving them. I wanted to have a look inside the eatery. Another old person, on his own, was playing, a game of Pool!

Playing Pool

And the two persons manning the shop—a man probably in his seventies and a woman in her sixties, happily, serving the customers! All,of them, mark my words, ALL, were happy. I thought of the World Happiness Report 2017.

The research is published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network and aims to show that ‘well-being and happiness are critical indicators of a nation’s economic and social development, and should be a key aim of policy’. You don’t need any research to prove that Dutch are happy people.

And when elders of any civil society are happy, there must be a reason behind it. The “live” life, not just drag it! The people behind the counter and in front of the corner were “living” at the fag end of their life. I wondered at the carefree attitude that these people had in their life. I was curious. A little inquiry revealed that it is state sponsored pension that helps all persons beyond an age to live their life. As a rule, everyone who has reached the AOW pension age and lives or has lived in the Netherlands is entitled to an AOW pension.

There are 1.5 million people over 70 in the Netherlands, of whom a third are living alone, usually after the loss of their partner. According to the latest household forecast by Statistics Netherlands their number is expected to increase by more than 40% in the next 20 years, from the current 571 thousand to 819 thousand in 2020.

If you receive an AOW pension but have little or no other income, your total income will probably be less than the applicable minimum income. In that case, you can apply for AIO supplement (income support for people who have reached the AOW pension age). AIO supplement is paid under the Participation Act.

The Netherlands is the sixth happiest country in the world a rating that some attribute to the welfare state developed after World War II. The Dutch welfare state assists residents in the domains of labor, income, education, unemployment, and disability, engendering solidarity between healthy and capable people and those who are not, and resulting in general protection against extreme poverty and lack of care.

At 16%, the proportion of people aged 65 and older in the Netherlands is lower than the European average (17%) and the German and Italian average (both 21%) (Eurostat, 2013), but higher than proportions in Australia (14%), the United States (13%), and India (5%) (Population Reference Bureau, 2013). Surprisingly, almost 95% of all senior citizens live independently.

I was living in a world inhabitated by happy people. But was I happy? Indian had only 6% of population aged 65 and above (% of total) in 2015 according to the World Bank Report whereas Netherland had 16% of population aged 65 and above. Can’t we, a country so big, take care of mere 6% of our elders?
I thought of the countless old people back home who don’t even have a respectable way to die leave alone live happily! I thought of some wrinkled faces back home and the joy on their face when they would receive Rs. 300/ per month as old-age-pension. These old people have to spend this money to maintain themselves for a month with this meager amount that is if they have no other source to maintain themselves. I thought hard.

18768361_10156213305803696_3697078160332416021_oI asked my daughter: “How much a glass of beer cost here in Netherlands?”

Surprised at my question, she replied: “Around Rs 300/ in ‘your’ currency!”

I compared the price of a glass of beer in Netherlands to the monthly age-old pension amount. Ironically, it was the same amount that oldies back home spend on their upkeep for a month! I imagined some of them holding a glass of beer in their wrinkled hands and having a smile on their faces while sipping it coolly! Some imagination indeed!

My India, sure, needs many welfare schemes, not on the papers, but implemented in right spirit!

Is anyone listening in the power-corridors?

Europe Diary: Silent and Serene…Eindhoven Neighborhoods

The first thing that I noticed in the morning at Eindhoven neighborhood is the silence and serenity prevailing around me! There was no sound of someone using “kundi-Danda”  (pestle) to pound “adrak” to make “Masala chai“!!

And where were the kids of the neighborhood? How could a neighborhood be so quiet? I thought of life back at home in a small town in Himachal, India, where we get up, or say, are forced to get up from deep slumber because a fervent Bhakt would sound the conch shell to wake up the sleeping God!! The neighborhood back home will come to life suddenly with the shrieks of kids of all size, color and shape and of-course age as well. Leave alone kids, the elders would be equally shouting at the top of their voice to announce to the whole neighborhood “I am awake and around!”

But why was this neighborhood so serene and silent here in Eindhoven? A little inquiry made me realize the secret to the peace and serenity prevailing around.

People RESPECT your right to live in peace. Although there are no written laws for it but no-one would even use a lawn mower on a Sunday till as late as 10 a.m. so that others who might be enjoying some more time in bed may not be disturbed. No-one would, in similar manner, use any machine or gadget even like vacuum cleaner late in the evening when others might be needing time to relax!

If you have a right to do what pleases you, in your home; others, too, have a right to live in peace in their home! Such a small basic rule makes the life so serene and peaceful in a Eindhoven neighborhood!

Would it be too much if we make a small beginning by respecting others’ right to live in peace and maintain some serenity and tranquility in our surroundings, back home, as well. I am sure the peace of the surrounding would travel inwards as well.

Lets take one small step…one at a time!!

Remain connected to your roots…wherever you may live

October 20, 2016

Dear Little one,

In almost all my posts to you on your birthday, I have been, invariably, looking back on certain moment that remained so fresh in my mind. But in today I am in different frame of mind and really don’t know, why I am looking at the future where our association as parents and a child would be so very significant!!

mandi-shivratri-105-aYesterday when you made a stray comment about owning a “house”—a house of your own, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was elated that you are a big girl on the other hand I was worried of how would we live without you all in our “home”!! It is because these days I am more attached to the house that you, till date, referred to as “Dadi’s house” and I would call “Gaon wala ghar”! Today, that ghar is empty…it has lost its soul as your Dadi has passed away. Staying there for a considerable time, I reflected on all the possibilities of keeping it intact and living but honestly speaking am no wiser than what I began at!

mandi-shivratri-110-aIt was a retreat for us all…remember “Gone with the Wind”…when Scarlette says that she would go back to Tara and everything would be fine! It was that house which suppled her with strength to face all that she was burdened with!

I, too, feel the same way! Houses are living entities…either they sap you of all your energy…mainly the positive energy or they zapp you up with positive energy. I wish the “house “you have fills your life with positive vibrations and energy. It makes your life full of love, peace and vitality. But whenever you feel that you need to refill the depleting source of energy…come back to your roots. I am sure that you would feel energized and full of life at “home” which is where you feel connected to.

mandi-shivratri-116-aRemain connected to your roots as these are what give strength to our very existence…our very being. And remaining connected to a “house” is nothing if one doesn’t remain connected to our very own who live there! I feel it all the more these days when I see the place occupied by your Dadi…empty!

Stay connected,  as you always have been, and stay happy!!! We all love you!

A very happy birthday to you my little one!

It is “the time” that our politicians Arise, Awake and Act…against the enemy

Running is in vogue these days. Every second person on Facebook posts selfies. And why would they not put selfies on social sites when it is so very fashionable to put their love for running. We, the friends of these narcissists, like these status posts and comment section is full of “Wows” and “Great” and “wonderful” etc. etc.  Marathons have become so common these days even in small towns or even peripheral suburbs of towns that people, putting on a cap, start running at the drop of a hat! They run for “clean India”, “green India”, “lean India” or even “Mean India”, or any other prefix/ qualifier attached to the word India. Such is their love for India that they put on their bestest sports gear and run. People of all size, color and shapes run to show unity for the country they love…India. Running is so much in our genetic makeup that we have started running “marathons” to shy away from core issues!

My socially-activated-self has become so accustomed and attuned to watch people running on roads that nothing less than a Marathon would come to my mind even when I would see a group of runners…may be running to save themselves from a mad dog. So, when a nitwit like me, who has such shortsighted vision, would watch young boys running on road, how could I think otherwise?

I don’t participate in Marathons so I do the second, most fashionable, act that is strolling leisurely on a road in my evening bestest clothes. I wave hands to people whom I meet in the evening…the people who belong to my social circle…middle class people, working hard to gain entry to the next band-width of town elites! Sometimes, when I go for a walk…a long walk, towards side roads, I see, almost, everyday some young boys running up and down the hilly roads surrounding Hamirpur. These boys were neither fashionable to look at, nor were obese…so why the hell they were running and panting like dogs  while traversing a few kilometers of running. I saw them every day, every single day. Running.   Bewildered, I asked one of them why were they running. What was the purpose or the goal? Was it some ensuing marathon that they were preparing for?  “Marathon?”  “What is that?”  Asked one of the boys who had stopped to answer my query. I could see plain innocence writ large on his face. He might have been seventeen years of age. His face glistened in sweat. I didn’t care to answer his question and put another question to him, “Why are you running?”  His face expressed excitement and pride. “For army recruitment”. Suddenly I, too, felt a surge of love for nation in my sixty-years-old heart! The boy exclaimed, “I want to join Indian Army!” “All my friend, too, are practicing for the physical test for army recruitment test.” The other boys, too, had stopped to hear what was being talked about. All of them had small stubs of growth on their chin…boys on the threshold of manhood! Eager to join Army, Indian army. “Why don’t you study further?” The teacher in me rose up to propagate “Padho India”! “Where are the jobs?” asked one of them. He was much mature for his age. “I have my young brother and sister to look after”, “if I get recruited in army, they could study”, he added wistfully! Now it was the mother in me that was awakened, “are you not afraid of wars and being killed?” “No” ,he replied. “I would fight the enemies and become famous like Vikram Batra!” His chest seemed to swell with pride. I was relieved and happy. Walking back to the coziness and warmth of my home, I forgot all about this small conversation.

But, today when I listened to the gory and cowardly killing of our Army personnel in Uri, I thought of so many young boys aspiring to join army. What those young boys might be thinking of? Would I see those boys still running on the dusty roads with the same zeal as I had seen them some days ago? Come on India! Wake up and give a fitting reply. Our young boys need an action and not high-power-deliberations in the name of politics. We are simple people and need simple answer…simple and straight…hitting the target straight and swift!

Roles Reversed…

If I could peep inside your little heart, when you were small, I surely would have seen the strength that you had! But for me you were just a “second” child born to me and your being a “girl” child made you special but, sure enough, in a negative way! I had already my hands filled with so many tasks at hand and your arrival jeopardized many of the plans that I had for my life.

But it was now on “our” life. If on one hand I could see my ownself being reflected in you, I wanted you to turn up even much stronger than I was supposed to be. Like you, I too, was a second daughter to my parents, so how can I not understand your special needs! You looked at me for approval, appreciation and acceptance! A close hug was all that you needed at that time. And there was no scarcity of hugs from a mother to her Little one!

Despite having much on your frail shoulders…the baggage of expectations,the-trouble-maker.thumbnail you did splendid… much better than what my middle class upbringing could have thought of.

And that evening when you stood waiting for me at Rome airport, I could feel that the roles had reversed, I was taken care of you, so lovingly, by you my Little one! When we roamed together in the streets of Florence, when you wanted me to enjoy every little moment of life, I  lived another lifetime, when roles had “reversed”! Now I looked at you with admiration and searched for approval, appreciation of many antics  that made me feel outlandish. I was there in your heart so there was no need of any acceptance. You have grown in a way that would make any mother proud my Little one!

But I know for certain that inside you still lies a small girl, looking expectantly for approvals and appreciations and there lies a small girl lurking inside the veneer of strength waiting to be cuddled and hugged! Many hugs to you my Little one on your birthday! Happy Birthday my dear!