Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Full Moon Hayrides

Farming is a strenuous and continuous activity. Village folk in rural Karnataka (South India) had a beautiful word for it, though it not used that frequently now. In Kannada language, the occupation was called Aarambha (ಆರಂಭ) which literally means "The Beginning". Sanskrit, Hindi and many other Indian languages also use this word in different contexts, with the same meaning. As children we often heard use age of this word to describe the occupation of farmers. It is always "Beginning" as there is no end to it! The activity is like a circle that has no starting point. It is all round the year and starts with picking and packing the seeds at harvest time for the next crop. A farmer is always busy and does not enjoy the luxury of holidays and weekends. 

Farming work depends on the season and linked to weather and time of the year. It may be preparing the land for sowing by tilling and mixing fertilizers before the seeds or saplings are planted. It may be watering or removing of the weeds sometime later. It may be protecting the crops from birds and rodents a little later. Then it is harvesting and thrashing for separating the grains from the chaff, followed by transporting and storage. Moving the surplus produce to the market and selling it follows thereafter. Those who grow seasonal vegetables have these activities in "Fast forward" mode. This cycle repeats several times a year for them. While they are harvesting the fruits and vegetables in one part of their land, another piece of land is ready for sowing while a third piece is being taken care of with crops grown midway that can be harvested a little later. Weather often dictates a farmer's timetable and he has to respond quickly to changes in the surroundings.   

Does all this mean that there is no leisure and recreation for the rural folk and farmer families? Man always finds methods to find interesting ways and means to overcome monotony in the routine, whatever the nature of the job or occupation is. Farmers are no different and have many innovative methods for recreation. Harvest time is one such period when the families of agriculturists can relax and enjoy their time a bit. The pleasure of watching the fruits of their hard work indeed doubles the joy and merry making festivities. During our childhood, we looked forward to harvest season and many festivals associated with it. We had the pleasure of being taken on a ride in bullock carts with Paddy or Ragi hay spread for seating us in the cart. We had rides to the lands where the harvested crops were heaped. There were festivities, contests and village games played around the harvested crop heaps. At the end of the day, the crops were filled in the bags and moved to houses on the same carts. These were the hayrides we had over five decades ago.

The little girl was excited about the "Hayride" she was being taken on, three days ago. I was also wondering as to what is this "Hayride" was. She was going on this hayride for this first time just as I too was. We were driven to a rural Pennsylvania farm and on our arrival there it was the same harvest festival atmosphere. It was a large farm extending to several hundred acres with various crops. The land was in a valley with several crops grown in the vast area. The central place in the farm adjacent to the parking lot had big permanent structures housing a farmers market, a decorated pumpkin yard, a shop place for selling various processed farm items like juices, pies and pastries. The farm had many different activities for the visitors, each having its own excitement quotient for the children and adults alike. There are many such farms in nearby areas that provide hayrides to children and adults for a small fare during these months.

The farms have their own "Pick Your Own" system. The visitors are given a basket on arrival at the base point and they can proceed to the orchards that have vegetable and fruit crops. There are also Apple and Strawberry special tours for this activity. Seeing bunches of fruits and vegetables is indeed thrilling. They can choose and pick the fruits and vegetables they like and return to the base. The items in the basket are weighed, valued and visitors can take them home on payment of the amount. The pleasure children and adults alike get when plucking ripe apples, strawberries, blackberries, pears and vegetables is invaluable. Children also understand how these items come to the market and the efforts made to grow them. The farm saves the efforts in harvesting and transporting the items whereas the visitors get fresh fruits and vegetables of their choice.

The farms also provide various "Hayrides" in the evening hours. They have Full Moon Hayrides, Witch House Hayrides, Blossoms Hayrides, Daytime Hayrides etc. Visitors are taken in big tractor trailers with hay spread in them as seating arrangement. The tractors ride through the various parts of the farm showing the fruit gardens, vegetable growing areas, crops like maize or wheat, areas for keeping various farming equipments and machinery, yards for keeping animals and livestock etc. These Hayrides are a big hit with children and adults alike. The rides have their own charm during daytime as one can see the various plants and fruit laden trees. The night rides have winding roads with lighted displays of ghosts and witches. 

At the end of the rides visitors are taken to an area for relaxation. Apple pie, pumpkin pie and fruit juices are on sale here. Fireplaces lit for baking marshmallows at the end of a long stick are very popular with children. They have the freedom to bake the marshmallows in the flames under adult supervisions. The visitors then visit the Farm Market for buying the freshly plucked fruits and vegetables and other farm produce. Apple pie, Pumpkin pie and bakery items are liked by children. With the "Halloween Festival" round the corner, there would be a huge demand for Pumpkins. The big Pumpkin yard provides an opportunity to buy pumpkins of any size depending on the buyer's desire and size of the car boot. One can also buy different plant saplings in the Garden Centers maintained in the farms. A Hayride visit to a nearby farm is a time well spent for the entire family. It is entertainment as well as education. 

For details about Halloween Festival and its similarities with Indian celebrations, Click here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jaajali, Tulaadhara and Business Ethics

Jaajali wanted to be recognized as the one Rishi with the most revered record of penance, devotion to the Lord and achievement in spiritual advancement. His many years of spiritual practice under most difficult circumstances had earned him a lot of respect in the comity of fellow Rishis. But he wanted to achieve even more. Being not satisfied with the progress made in the normal course of penances, he increased the rigor followed in his rituals. In his quest for spiritual advancement, he went to the ocean and stood in the middle of the sea waters for a considerable time and continued his penance. Not satisfied with this success, he went to a forest and stood still among the trees like another tree and continued his tapas. He controlled his hunger, thirst and resisted even his body's nature calls. He pursued the penance with a singleminded objective of achieving an unprecedented record in penance and tapas. 

His standing still among the many trees like yet another tree was so successful that the birds in the forest took him for a real tree. A pair of little birds started living in the multiple braids of hair on his head. They made a nest on his head and eggs were laid in the nest. Jaajali continued to stand still fearing that his movement would disturb their living.  In course of time, the eggs hatched and the little ones were nursed by the parents. The little ones gained strength and flew away from the nest. Jaajali continued to stay still and waited for several months looking for their return. He did not want to disappoint them when they came back in search of their nest. 

The Law of Supply and Demand explains the relation between the supply, demand and the price of a item or commodity in the market. As the demand for an item increases, its price increases if the supply is constant or comes down. If the item is in high supply and the demand is low, prices come down. Ultimately an equilibrium will be reached and the market finds a price for the item. This is fine as long as all factors of supply and demand are on natural lines in the market. If intermediaries are able to influence flow on either supply side or demand side, prices fluctuate accordingly. There are even violent fluctuations in prices. Essential commodities are more susceptible to increase in prices when confronted with scarcity. 

Today's market players are able to stock up the items and reduce supply side to make prices rise. Their financial strength enables them to hold on to the items till the prices reach the levels desired by them. By continuing to regulate the releases of items for sale in the market, these agencies or forces make huge profits to the detriment of the hapless consumers. Modren markets have introduced the concept of trading in derivatives. The price of pulses has now reached very high levels and trades hoarding these items are making a killing in the market.

Ethics in business is much talked about, but in reality it is the profits that really matter. Traders use all methods and resources at their command to make profits in the various markets they trade in. Definition of ethics also changes depending on who is talking about ethics! Efforts made by regulatory authorities is not yielding desired results. Prices continue to rise though inflation is said to be coming down. Economists confuse us by saying that prices are rising, but rate of rising of prices is indeed coming down. Little consolation indeed.

Rishi Jaajali stood still like a tree and waited for the little birds to return to their nest. The birds did not return even after several months. Jaajali then felt that his duty was over. He was now a satisfied man. He could stand like a tree for such a long time! That he was standing like a tree was confirmed by the birds nesting on the braids on his head and even giving life to their next generation. A sense of fulfillment overtook him. He felt that he had accomplished what he had aimed for. In that moment of ecstasy he loudly exclaimed about his achievement.

Birds flying above him in the forest heard his words. They came near him and laughingly told him, "Rishi Jaajali, do not feel arrogant about your achievement. Your achievement is insignificant in comparison to many others. If you are indeed interested in meeting a true achiever, go to the city of Kashi and meet Tulaadhara there. Then you will really know how people achieve greatness in different ways!"

Rishi Jaajali was so surprised by the utterance of the birds. Who is this Tulaadhara? What has he done to achieve greatness? What is the type of penance he has made? Has he done something more than me? What is the extent of his knowledge? How is it that even the birds know about it? Who can tell me all these details? These were the many questions in his mind. He decided to go to Kashi and learn the secrets directly from Tulaadhara himself. He was on his way to Kashi without any loss of time.

How much profit should a trader make? We often hear about farmers committing suicide due to failure of crops or not getting a decent price when there is a good crop.  When the yield is low, farmer suffers due to lower income. When the yield is high, he suffers since the prices fall. Either way farmer suffers. But middlemen and agents make profit. Trader's selling price is fixed depending on his purchase price. Does he keep the same profit margin always? Or does he increase his margin when the item is in short supply?  The pace of price rise is not the same as the pace of its coming down. In many cases, prices never come down to original levels even when the next bumper crop arrives. Traders thrive when there is short supply and they have already stocked the items. It is at such times that they can increase their profit margins. Profit margins are directly proportional to the jacked up demand and helplessness of the consumer.

There are also issues of adulteration and cheating in weight and measurements. Cheaper items or similar looking items, often harmful to the users, are mixed before selling the items with a view to make higher profits. Buyers regularly find that the quantity they receive is much less than what they should have actually got. Profits made from adulteration and cheating in weights and measures is undoubtedly unethical. Despite efforts by the administration to control these evils, they are still thriving. Often enforcing authorities are themselves hand in glove with the traders. 

Rishi Jaajali reached Kashi and went to Tulaadhara's place after making enquiries. Tulaadhara was sitting in his shop, busy attending to his customers. Contrary to Jaajali's thoughts, he did not find any special features in Tulaadhara's appearance. He was not a scholar or Guru surrounded by seekers and learners. Tulaadhara saw Jaajali, smiled and welcomed him. "Please come Rishi Jaajali. I am blessed by your arrival at may shop. The birds in the forest must have sent you here. Please be seated for a few minutes. This is my business time. I have to attend to my customers now. I will talk to you as soon as I am done with my work", he said and returned to his work. Jaajali was flabbergast. How did he identify me? How did he know that the birds sent me here? Is not a Rishi and guest like me more important to him than his small customers? With many questions in his mind, he patiently waited for Tulaadhara to finish his business.

Tulaadhara turned to the Rishi after his work was done. He told Rishi Jaajali: "I know the questions in your mind. I am not a learned man and scholar like you. I am a simple man like all the traders and others here. I am carrying on the family business as a trader. Tula (The weighing scale) is the foundation of my business and my life. That is why I have been given the name "Tulaadhara" which means one who is living with its support. The weighing scale (Tula) looks after everyone equally. It does not differentiate between a learned man or a child. Whoever comes to my shop will get a fair treatment. I do not cheat in weight or measurement. I have to keep a profit margin on the items I trade in since I have to make a living. I take only such justified fixed margin on the items irrespective of what others do. There is no adulteration in the items I sell. Even if the item is scarce, I do not charge more to earn higher profits. I sell it at the same rate as long as the item is available in my shop. I am happy with this level of earning. During business hours I do not do anything else but attend to my customers. This is all I know. This is what I have followed all my life. I believe that carrying on my business honestly and ethically is the best penance in the world for me".

"What was wrong with my penance standing as a tree? Did I not help the birds? Does  it not have any value?", asked Jaajali. Tulaadhara smiled. "Were there no other trees in the forest? Did the birds have no other place to nest? What was your goal? To do penance or nest the birds? In your eagerness to help the birds, you wandered away from your goal. How much did you think of the Lord in all those months? You were only thinking of the birds and forgot the Lord. You gave up the basic purpose of your penance. That answers all your questions. Do your duties honestly and diligently. That is what the Lord expects of all his subjects", Tulaadhara concluded. 

There are many dimensions to "Business Ethics" in the modren world. It is much more complicated than what it was several centuries ago. Even then, this Jaajali-Tulaadhara episode detailed in Mahabharata answers many questions on business ethics issues confronting us today. Business ethics are not achieved by discussing them. They are achieved by diligently practicing them by all concerned. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In memory of Shobha G RajKumar

ಶೋಭಾ ಜಿ. ರಾಜ ಕುಮಾರ 
(07.07,1939 - 05.10.2016)

ದಿವಂಗತ ರಾಜಾಮಣಿ ಮತ್ತು ಸಿ. ಕೆ. ನಾಗರಾಜ ರಾವ್ ದಂಪತಿಗಳ ಮೊದಲ ಪ್ರೇಮದ ಪುತ್ರಿಯಾಗಿ 1939ನೇ ಇಸವಿ ಜುಲೈ ತಿಂಗಳ ಏಳನೇ ದಿನಾಂಕ ಸೂರ್ಯೋದಯದ ಸಮಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಜನಿಸಿದ ಮಗುವಿಗೆ ಬೆಳಗಿನ ಸೂಚಕವಾದ ಶೋಭಾ ಎಂದು ನಾಮಕರಣ. ತಾಯಿ-ತಂದೆಯರ ಚೊಚ್ಚಲ ಮಗಳು. ಅಜ್ಜಿ-ತಾತ ದಿವಂಗತ ಪುಟ್ಟಮ್ಮ ಮತ್ತು ಸಿ. ಯಸ್. ಕೃಷ್ಣಮೂರ್ತಿರಾವ್ ದಂಪತಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಪ್ರೀತಿಪಾತ್ರ ಮೊದಲ ಮೊಮ್ಮಗಳು.  ತಾತನ ಪಾಲಿಗಂತೂ ಬಲು ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ "ಶೋಭಣ್ಣ". ತನ್ನ ನಂತರ ಜನಿಸಿದ ಐದು ತಂಗಿಯರಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತು ಇಬ್ಬರು ತಮ್ಮಂದಿರಿಗೆ "ಹಿರಿಯಕ್ಕ". ಮುಂದೆ ಕುಟುಂಬಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದ ಮೈದುನ-ನಾದಿನಿಯರಿಗೆ ಅಚ್ಚುಮೆಚ್ಚಿನ "ಅತ್ತಿಗೆ".  ದೊಡ್ಡ ಕುಟುಂಬವರ್ಗಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ "ಶೋಭಾ". 

ಚಿಕ್ಕಂದಿನಿಂದಲೂ ಶೋಭಾ ಬಲು ಚೂಟಿ. ಸದಾ ಚಟುವಟಿಕೆಯ ಸ್ವಭಾವ. ಸೋಮಾರಿತನದ ಸುಳಿವೂ ಇಲ್ಲದ ಜೀವನ. ಅನೇಕ ವಿಧದ ಕಲಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ. ಶಾಲೆಯ ವಿದ್ಯಾಭ್ಯಾಸದ ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹಾಡು-ಹಸೆ, ಕಸೂತಿ, ರಂಗೋಲಿ, ಬೊಂಬೆ ಅಲಂಕಾರ, ಅಡುಗೆ ಕೆಲಸ ಇವುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಎತ್ತಿದ ಕೈ. ಶಾಲೆಯ ಸ್ಪರ್ಧೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅನೇಕ ಬಹುಮಾನಗಳು. ಹೊಸದನ್ನು ಬೇಗ ಕಲಿಯುವ ಹುಮ್ಮಸ್ಸು. ತಂದೆ-ತಾಯಿಯರಿಂದ ಬಳುವಳಿಯಾಗಿ ಬಂದ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ-ಸಂಗೀತಗಳ ಒಲವು. ಸಣ್ಣ ವಯಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲೇ ಕವನ-ಕತೆ ಬರೆಯುವ ಹವ್ಯಾಸ. ಗ್ರಂಥಗಳ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ. ನಾಡಿನ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ತಿಳುವಳಿಕೆ ಮತ್ತು ಹೆಮ್ಮೆ. 

ಕನ್ನಡ, ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್, ಹಿಂದಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಟೈಪಿಂಗ್ ಮತ್ತು ಶಾರ್ಟ್ ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ. ಕಾಲೇಜು ವಿದ್ಯಾಭ್ಯಾಸದ ಸಮಯದಲ್ಲೇ ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡುವ ಉತ್ಸಾಹ. ಕೆಲಸದ ಜೊತೆಗೇ ಮುಂದಿನ ಕಲಿಕೆಯ ಕಡೆಗೂ ಗಮನ. ವಾಯು ಸೇನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲಸಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರುವ ಮುನ್ನ ಅನೇಕ ಕಡೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ವೃತ್ತಿ ಸೇವೆ. ಅವುಗಲ್ಲಿ ಕುಮಾರನ್ಸ್ ಶಾಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಪಾಠ ಹೇಳುವ ಅಧ್ಯಾಪಕಿ (Teacher) ಕೆಲಸವೂ ಒಂದು.  

1968ನೇ ಅಕ್ಟೋಬರ 11ರಂದು ಮೆಚ್ಚಿದ ವರ ಗಿರಿರಾಜಕುಮಾರ ಶ್ರೀವಾಸ್ತವ ಜೊತೆ ವಿವಾಹ. ವಾಯುಸೇನೆಯ ಶಿಸ್ತಿನ ಜೀವನಕ್ಕೆ ಸುಗಮ ಪ್ರವೇಶ. ಪತಿಯ ಕುಟುಂಬದ ಹಿನ್ನೆಲೆಯಾಗಿ ಮಧ್ಯ ಪ್ರದೇಶದ ಜನಜೀವನದ ತಿಳುವಳಿಕೆ. ಅಲ್ಲಿನ ದೇಶ-ಭಾಷೆಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ. ಹೊಸ ಪರಿಸರದಲ್ಲೂ ಸೈಎನ್ನಿಸಿಕೊಂಡ ಸಾಧನೆ. ಸೇರಿದ ಕುಟಂಬಕ್ಕೆ ಮೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಸೊಸೆ. ಉತ್ತರ ಭಾರತದ ತಿಂಡಿ ತಿನಿಸು ಮಾಡುವುದರಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಕೈ ಮುಂದು. ಮುಂದೆ ಜೀವನದುದ್ದಕ್ಕೂ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ-ಸೇರಿದ ಮನೆಗಳೆರಡಕ್ಕೂ ಬೆಸುಗೆಯ ಕೊಂಡಿ. ಮನೆಯ ಆಚಾರ-ವಿಚಾರಗಲ್ಲಿ  ಎರಡೂ ಪದ್ಧತಿಯ ಸಮನ್ವಯ. ದಿನನಿತ್ಯದ ಬದುಕಿನಲ್ಲಿ, ಹಬ್ಬ ಹರಿದಿನಗಳ ಆಚರಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿ, ಇತರೆ ವಿಷಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ, ಎಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಘರ್ಷಣೆಯ ಸಂದರ್ಭ ಬರದಂತೆ ನಿಭಾಯಿಸುವ ಚಾಲೂಕು. 

"ವಿವಾಹಂ ವಿದ್ಯನಾಶಾಯ" ಎನ್ನುವ ನಾಣ್ನುಡಿ ವಿರುದ್ಧವಾದ ದಾಂಪತ್ಯ. ಮದುವೆಯಾದ ನಂತರವೂ ಪತಿ-ಪತ್ನಿಯರಿಬ್ಬರ ವ್ಯಾಸಂಗ ಜೊತೆ-ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಮುಂದುವರಿಕೆ. ಸೋಷಿಯಾಲೊಜಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ನಾತಕೋತ್ತರ (ಎಂ. ಎ.) ಪದವಿ.  ಹಿಂದಿ ಭಾಷೆಯಲ್ಲಿ "ವಿಶಾರದೆ".  "ಲೈಬ್ರರಿ ಸೈನ್ಸ್" ನಲ್ಲಿ  ಪದವಿ. ವಾಯುಸೇನೆಯ ಸಿವಿಲ್ ವಿಭಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ದೇಶದ ಅನೇಕ ಪ್ರದೇಶಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಬಹಳ ವರ್ಷಗಳ  ಸೇವೆ. ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡಿದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಸ್ತರದ ಅಧಿಕಾರಿ ಮತ್ತು ಸಿಬ್ಬಂದಿಗಳ ಜೊತೆ ಸುಮಧುರ ಒಡನಾಟ. ಕನ್ನಡ ಮತ್ತು ಹಿಂದಿ ಭಾಷೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅನೇಕ ಕವನ ಮತ್ತು ಲೇಖನಗಳ ರಚನೆ. ಕಛೇರಿಯ ಸಾಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಕ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾವಾಗಲೂ ಮುಂದು. 

ಹೊಸತನ್ನು ಕಲಿಯುವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಬರಿಯ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಅಷ್ಟೇ ಅಲ್ಲ. ಅವುಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಪ್ರಭುತ್ವ ಪಡೆಯುವ ಹಂಬಲವೂ ಕೂಡ. ತೆಲುಗು, ತಮಿಳು ಮತ್ತು ಬಂಗಾಳಿ ಭಾಷೆಯನ್ನೂ ಕಲಿತು ರಬಿಂದ್ರ ಸಂಗೀತದಲ್ಲಿ ಹಾಡುಗಳ ಕಲಿಕೆ. ನಿವೃತ್ತಿಯ ನಂತರವೂ ಸಮಯ ವ್ಯರ್ಥ ಮಾಡುವ ರೀತಿಯಿಲ್ಲ. ಸುಗಂಧ ದ್ರವ್ಯದ (perfumery) ಕಾರ್ಖಾನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಲೆಕ್ಕಿಗಳ (Accountant) ಕೆಲಸ. ನಂತರ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ಹೋಸ್ಪಿಟಲ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಲೈಬ್ರರಿಯನ್ ಕೆಲಸ. ಸುಭಾಷಿತಗಳ ಸಂಗ್ರಹ ಮಾಡಿ ಪ್ರತಿದಿನ ಆಸ್ಪತ್ರೆಯ ಹಲಗೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಒಂದು ಸುಭಾಷಿತ ಬರೆಯುವ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ. ರೋಗಿಗಳ ಸುಖ-ದುಃಖ ವಿಚಾರಿಸುವ ಕಳಕಳಿ. 

ಎರಡು ಮುದ್ದು ಹೆಣ್ಣುಮಕ್ಕಳ ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ ತಾಯಿ. ತಂಗಿಯರ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಪ್ರೀತಿಪಾತ್ರ "ದೊಡ್ಡಮ್ಮ". ತಮ್ಮಂದಿರ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಅತಿ ಹತ್ತಿರದ "ಅತ್ತೆ". ಭಾವಂದಿರ ಮತ್ತು ನಾದಿನಿಯರ ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ "ಕಾಕಿ". ಪ್ರೀತಿಭಾವದಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲ ಮಕ್ಕಳೂ ಸಮ. ಭೇದಭಾವ ಸಲ್ಲ. ಯಾರೊಬ್ಬರು  ಮನೆಗೆ ಬಂದರೂ ಅವರ ಆದರ-ಆತಿಥ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಕೊರತೆಯಿಲ್ಲ. ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಬ್ಬರ ಇಷ್ಟಾನಿಷ್ಟಗಳ ತಿಳುವಳಿಕೆ. ಅದರಿಂದ ಅಥಿತಿ-ಅಭ್ಯಾಗತರ ಸೇವೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಸರಿದೂಗಿಸುವ ಜಾಣ್ಮೆ. ಮನೆಗೆ ಬಂದವರ ಸತ್ಕಾರದಲ್ಲಿ ತಾಯಿಗೆ ತಕ್ಕ ಮಗಳು. ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೂ ಅದೇ ರೀತಿಯ ತರಬೇತಿ. ಪ್ರತಿವರ್ಷ ದೀಪಾವಳಿ ಅಮಾವಾಸ್ಯೆಯ ವಿಶೇಷ "ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮೀಪೂಜೆ"ಯ ವೈಭವ. ಮನುಷ್ಯರಷ್ಟೇ ಅಲ್ಲ, ಪ್ರಾಣಿಗಳ ಮೇಲೂ ಮಹತ್ತರ ಪ್ರೀತಿ-ಕರುಣೆ. "ಭೂತದಯೆ"ಗೆ ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಉದಾಹರಣೆ. "ಸರ್ವೇ ಜನಾಃ ಸುಖಿನೋ ಭವಂತು" ಎನ್ನುವುದರ ನಿತ್ಯ ಜಪ.

ಹತ್ತಿರ ಹತ್ತಿರ 48 ವರ್ಷಗಳ ದೀರ್ಘ ದಾಂಪತ್ಯ. ಜೀವನದಸಿಹಿ-ಕಹಿಗಲ್ಲಿ ಸಮ ದೃಷ್ಟಿಯ ತಾಳ್ಮೆ ಮತ್ತು ಸಂಯಮ. ಪತಿ-ಪತ್ನಿಯರದು ಯಾವಾಗಲೂ ಒಂದೇ ದೃಷ್ಟಿಕೋನ. ಹಿತವಾದ ತಾಳ-ಮೇಳ. ಕಡೆಯ ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಅನಾರೋಗ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಚಟುವಟಿಕೆ. ಅಂತಿಮ ವರುಷಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಪತಿಯಿಂದ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಆದರದ ಶುಶ್ರೂಷೆ. ಅದನ್ನು ಹತ್ತಿರದಿಂದ ಕಂಡವರಿಗೆ ಅದೊಂದು ದೈವೀಕ ಅನುಭವ. ಎಲ್ಲೂ ಕಾಣದ ಬಲು ಅಪರೂಪದ ಅನುಭಂದ. 

ಕಳೆದ ಐದನೆಯ ತಾರೀಖು ಅಂತಿಮ ಪ್ರಯಾಣ. ಪತಿ-ಮಕ್ಕಳು-ಅಳಿಯಂದಿರು-ಮೊಮ್ಮಕ್ಕಳು, ಬಂಧು-ಬಾಂಧವರು, ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರು, ಅಕ್ಕ-ಪಕ್ಕದವರಿಂದ ಭಾವಪೂರ್ಣ ಕಂಬನಿಯ ವಿದಾಯ. ಶೋಭಾ ರಾಜಕುಮಾರ ಇನ್ನು ನೆನಪು ಮಾತ್ರ. ಎಲ್ಲರ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅದೊಂದು ಸವಿ ನೆನಪು. ಇದೊಂದು ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ  ಶಬ್ದಾ೦ಜಲಿ- ಶ್ರದ್ದಾ೦ಜಲಿ.   

Friday, October 7, 2016

Builders, Warranties and Headaches

Owning a house is a lifetime dream for all those living in rented houses. Own house brings many advantages with it. Solving the problem of changing houses frequently is one of them. Freedom of living in one's own house is another. Own house also comes with many problems too. It has to be maintained properly since the remedy of passing on the related issues to the landlord is no longer available. Rates and taxes are to be paid and repairs often cost considerable sums of money. This may even lead to taking a house repair or remodeling loan!

There are many options available for owning a house. Purchasing a plot and getting a house constructed thereon is one. Buying a newly built house is another. Buying an existing old house is a third option. Now we also have the option of buying a flat. Buying a flat is more a compulsion than an option due to increasing cost of vacant plots. This is even more true in respect of large cities. One cannot rely upon allotment of plots by the development agencies. Buying in secondary market is cost prohibitive. For working people, buying or constructing a house and paying the mortgage debt for the rest of working life is the norm. Some have to pay the installments even after retirement. 

There are many important issues that one has to grapple with while buying a house or flat. Arranging for suitable funds is one of the main challenges faced by a prospective home buyer. One plans to buy a house within one's own means, but always ends up buying a bigger or more expensive one. Accommodating the needs, views and requirements of the members of the family is a big challenge to the decision maker. Then there are unsolicited advice from well-wishers (?) to make further additions to the original plan. Ensuring that the house or flat purchased is with clear title and making certain that the quality of construction is good are some of the major issues that are to be looked into. Many problems are observed after taking possession and starting living in the house or flat. One can heave a sigh of relief if everything ends on a happy note. But all are not so lucky. There are many who end up with very sad experiences and life time woes.

Purchase of houses and flats in complexes developed by various builders is the norm today in major cities. A buyer is required to register for a house or flat, pay amounts in installments and wait for completion of the building and taking possession for living therein. There have been many instances of builders delaying the projects inordinately and causing undue hardship to the prospective buyers. Builders fail to complete the project but do not refund the money paid by the prospective buyers. Sometimes projects are stopped due to various disputes and issues with civic authorities. Once a house or flat is booked, funds are blocked and the buyer cannot venture to try elsewhere. Lenders start demanding installments on loans after the gestation period, but possession of the house or flat is not received from the builder. Poor borrower ends up paying installments for a unoccupied and nonexistent property. 

Recently (September 6, 2016) Supreme Court of India reprimanded leading builder Supertech for failing to deliver flats to buyers as per agreement. "We are not concerned whether you sink or die. You will have to pay back the money to the homebuyers. We are least bothered by your financial status", the judges told the builder. Court also gave directions to the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) to inspect the site and find out whether the buildings had been built in the green zone in violation of the norms. Unitech and Parsvanath Builders had similar problems but the apex court directed them to refund the money to the buyers. Many buyers do not have the resources to knock on the doors of the apex court. This remedy is also costly and time consuming.

Then there are cases in which several years after taking possession and living in houses or flats, buildings are demolished by civic authorities. The same authority which approved the plan and amenities and accepted the taxes for several years, later declares that the building is unauthorized. House is demolished, but loan remains outstanding. The dream of owning a house ends up as a nightmare for the gullible and unsuspecting home buyers. Efforts are now being made by the governments to bring in the laws to remedy these situations. But it is still a long way to go.

An interaction with a young couple who recently purchased a house in a city on the Pacific coast of USA threw out some very pertinent features in home buying. The systems and protections available to the home buyers are significant and give supporting environment to them. There could be problems still but the overall framework offers scope for better planning and comfort. The procedure followed generally is as under:
  • A builder has to make disclosures about the property to the buyer at the outset.
  • Buyer appoints a building inspector (services available for a fee) to inspect the property and list the items requiring action before proceeding with sale/purchase.
  • After discussion on the items identified by the inspector and satisfactorily resolving the issues, mutual acceptance between builder/seller and buyer is arrived at.
  • Thereafter sale/purchase agreement is signed.
  • Buyer in the meanwhile identifies the financing agency and finalizes loan arrangement.
  • Earnest Money (also known as down payment or advance money) is deposited by the buyer with an Escrow Company. Now the funds are with the Escrow company. (Buyer has parted with the amount but seller has not received it.)
  • After the financing company or bank is satisfied with the details of the property, buyer signs the documents for lending.
  • Financing agency deposits the loan funds with the Escrow company.
  • A representative of the City authority also inspects the property for clearance from the point of compliance of state building laws.
  • The deal is closed and sale deed is signed by the seller and buyer.
  • Sale is recorded in the books of city authorities and buyer gets the title.
  • Buyer gets the keys of the building and seller gets funds from Escrow company.

Escrow mechanism is used as a intermediary to protect the interest of both seller and buyer. This prevents either party from backing out after agreement is reached. 

The seller also gives a warranty to the buyer to cover a period of 12 months (one year) from the date of sale. A warranty is an assurance given in connection with the sale of an item or property by which the party conveying title (seller) assures the grantee (buyer) that he or she will enjoy the premises free from any person claiming under a superior title. In sale of property like what is discussed here, it is also a written guarantee given to the purchaser specifying that the seller will make repairs or corrections to the structure on any deficiencies free of charge for a specified period of time. Thus the seller's responsibility is not over when the property is sold. It continues for a further period of 12 months.

Before expiry of the warranty period, buyer (now owner of the house) again appoints a property inspector (services available for a fee) to inspect the property once again and identify items on which the seller is required to act.
  • The warranty period of 12 months is arrived at to ensure that the building is lived in for a full cycle of the seasons of the year. Leaking in the roof is known only in rainy season. Cracks due to hot days is known in summer months. Thus any deficiency due to seasonal happenings will be clear in one year time.
  • Home builders do not build the property themselves. Usually they hire subcontractors for doing the job. Even the subcontractors may outsource certain jobs. A full year warranty can bring out deficiencies in the entire property. Buyer need not rely on the mere reputation of the builder or seller.
  • Inspection by civic authorities is from the point of enforcement of local laws. Inspection by the agent appointed by the buyer will make a 360' verification of the property.
  • Things can go wrong even in new properties. This needs to be taken note of.
  • An expert's eye is needed to identify the deficiencies. Merely living in the house will not be sufficient to spot present deficiencies that may lead to major repairs later on.
  • Cost of inspection by an expert is much less than likely major repairs if it is not done.
The builder/seller is required to attend to the points identified in such inspections by mutual agreements, before the warranty period. The seller's job is complete only when this process ends. 

Marriages and buildings have one thing in common. Cracks will be visible only after sometime. Hence warranty period is indeed a justified requirement!