Why it’s “A” for Airlines

Airline industry  is a leading indicator of the country’s economy:  The growth in domestic carriage offers a litmus test for country’s GDP growth; GDP trails airline industry by few quarters. In a developing country like India,  there is a strong correlation between GDP growth and growth of domestic carriage; the domestic air carriage usually grows @ 1.5  to 2.5 times the GDP growth. In developed countries, airline industry grows at the same rate as the country’s GDP. New Picture (1)
Strong growth of domestic passengers during 2014-2018   The change in government in India, in 2014, saw a spurt in growth of domestic carriage The annual growth rate jumped from 9.7% to near 20% , and remained consistent @ average 20% for next four consecutive years. India’s domestic air passengers leaped  from 67 mill(2014) to 100 mill(2016) in three years .  India’s GDP growth during this period, was well above 7%  . In fact during 2015/16, it was kissing 9% growth until self goal by PM Modi, demonetizing the high valuation of currency in Nov 2016, brought it down. The GDP growth hit a speed breaker with demonetization and subsequent shock of GST imposition.

The trend of double digit growth in domestic carriage  arrested in 2019:

During last year, Jan to Dec 2019, the domestic passenger carriage has recorded  lowest growth of only 3.7%  Domestic Psgr carriage  was 144.1 mill in 2019 against 138.9 mill in 2018.  The muted growth  in domestic carriage is not a good portend of India’s economy. It is pointing to almost flat GDP growth. Not surprisingly  India’s GDP growth too fell below 5% in 2019 , as per official data.  As per Economist, the actual GDP growth would have been 3.2% but for last minute spending by government This  once again proves the strong co-relation between the two series. The economic slowdown in India, which the government tried hard to deny , had started with airline industry since January  2019 and then spread to other industries.

Why it s A for Airlines for any country Mr Shaktikanta  Das,Governor of RBI(Reserve Bank of India),  calls domestic air carriage, an indicator of  urban demand. Domestic passenger  growth is also a leading indicator of country’s economy and  consumer confidence as well.  It’s a trend setter . No wonder, that Year 2019 was  a lost year not only for India’s airlines but for almost all Indian businesses like automobiles, two wheeler , FMCG, Telecom, NBFCs, Banking, Housing/real estate as well. Jet Airways, India’s oldest private FSC(full service carrier) closed down in first quarter of 2019, due pressure of mounting debts. Its’ loss of capacity was quickly filled up, (not by other FSCs like Vistara, Air India) by LCCs (low cost carriers) like Indigo, SpiceJet. Today LCCs have 75% of India’s domestic market share , up from 69% a year ago. Such total dominance by LCCs in domestic market of a country, is unparalleled in any part of the world.  However the domestic carriage growth always  remained below 4% during last 12 months.

For a country of 1.25 billion, 144 million of air travelers is a miniscule 0.1 %  Its’ like cream of the milk When such a small number, starts with a double digit growth, it augers well for the entire economy.

Domestic air carriage is a trend setter: Whenever domestic airline carriage, rebounds with  robust double digit growth, we will also  see evidence of  green shoots in Indian economy , in following quarters. Both slowdown as well as turnaround of country’s economy starts with the airline industry in India.

Hope year 2020 starts on a positive note, with India’s airline industry in  the  lead, as was during 2014-2018. I will be looking for Jan 2020 uplifts to show early trends for the year ahead!

New Picture (38) Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mail  panditpank@gmail.com

Forcing Grid support charges on rooftop solar is gross injustice

 

Ambitious target of 40,000 MW  for rooftop solar India’s solar installed capacity, most of it as captive solar, has  reached 31 GW (ie 31000MW)  in 2019. India has the lowest capital cost per MW for solar PVs power plants. The Indian government has now set a new target of 175 GW of renewable energy  (including 40 GW from rooftop solar ) by 2022, targeting an investment of  over US$100 billion.  As power generation from coal is a major contributor to climate change, world  must switch to abundant renewable energy like solar, wind, biogas, etc to generate electrical power as per Paris agreement on climate change In addition to being “dirty”, coal availability in India has been very poor thereby making thermal power not only dirty, expensive but unreliable as well. The reduction in prices of solar PV cell, imported from China has made solar power economical

India blessed with 300 days of sun  in a year: Unlike most countries in Europe, that get less than 100 days of full solar radiation, almost all parts of  India get more than 300 days of full solar radiation, ie four hours or more.  Thus India is blessed with abundant renewable, green,  solar power India need not depend upon fossil fuels  or even expensive nuclear to meet our energy demands. Due to abundant solar energy, and crash in prices of solar PVs that are made in China, cost of electricity from solar PV  is now  among the lowest in the world, less than Rs 3 per unit (about 4.2 USCents) Among renewable energy options, capital cost of rooftop solar are a fraction of wind/bio gas Nuclear power also does not generate carbon emissions But is is now  very very expensive, as compared with solar power Nuclear power has longer gestation period as well   Unlike for captive solar , for Roof top solar installation, one  does not need to acquire additional land; existing roof area is used to catch solar energy, that was going any way going waste or was heating up the building or causing leakages in rainy season.  Rooftop Solar(RTS) PV panel generates power during the day , to meet peak demand from industries  while the resident user,  will be drawing from the grid in night when power  demand is low This is  ideal for meeting variation in electrical energy ie peak load demands during 11 AM to 3 PM. Thus renewable electricity  from solar PV  can ideally  meet peak load requirements while non renewable electricity from coal can meet base load requirements. As per one study, all Mumbai’s power requirements can be met from Roof top solar PV  if only 10% of potential is tapped.

What is Gross metering(GM) , Net Metering (NM), Grid support charges :

In both GM ans NM, the solar panel is connected to grid, called as In grid. There is no need of battery back up. What is different is the accounting  for power produced. Under GM(Gross metering) , the total energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is assumed to be injected into the grid without allowing the generated solar energy to be consumed directly by the consumer. Under NM,  the energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is allowed for self-consumption and the excess energy is injected to the grid. Under net metering, the units consumed are set off against unit produced like a barter arrangement In other words, the producer gets set off the production  @ rate of power tariffs charged. In case of high users, or commercial establishments, the rate of power tariff  rate is Rs 11 per unit So under NM, the producer gets credit for electricity produced @ Rs 11 per unit . Under net metering, the excess units used by consumers are credited  at MSEDCL tariff.  As against this, under gross metering, the producer gets credited @ Rs 3 per unit, while their usage  is  charged @RS 11 for the power that is consumed .  Thus Gross metering makes  solar rooftop projects un viable. Under gross metering, the entire consumption will be charged at MSEDCL tariff, and value of solar energy generated by the consumer will be deducted from it @ rate of lowest PPA (power purchase agreement) Grid support charges is back door gross metering as the DISCOM charges Rs. 3 to Rs 8 to solar PV generators In other words, gives them less for power that they produce.

Why NM is better for RFS power producer : This can be understood with an example. If a consumer uses 500 units and generates 450 units. Under net metering, he will be billed for 50 units at MSEDCL tariff. However, under gross metering he will be billed for all 500 units at MSEDCL tariff while MSEDCL will buy the 450 units generated by him at Rs 3 per unit , the average cost of renewable energy purchased by the discom.
As MSEDCL has a slab system, the bill for 500 units used will be very high, the average being around Rs 11 per unit. Against this, the average cost of non renewable energy from coal,  is Rs6 per unit, while cost of renewable solar PV power is now available for less than Rs 3 per unit This means that the RTS producer  will be paid by  MSEDCL at the rate of Rs 3 per unit for the 500 units he consumes. Under net metering, he pays for only 50 units at low rates, because the tariff for 0-100 units is low.Further the consumer will get benefit of net metering only upto 300 units per month So even if he generates more than 300 units , the extra units will be under gross metering, whereas he would have got a negative bill under net metering.

Here’s actual output of very small , 3.76 KW solar PV installed at our Kharghar residential in Sept 2017. This shows that 1 KW RTS generates only 835 units per year though most RTS vendors assume much higher output , 1200 to 1500 units per year. per 1 KW panel.  New Picture (59)

As you can observe, the output of even a small 3.76 KW RTS unit goes over 300 units, in best months( ie April, Sept, Oct, Nov) when solar radiation is high This high output will now be made redundant under new policy because for  residential consumers  NM is allowed only for maximum upto  300 units per month  In any case, like most state DISCOMs, MSEB(Maharashtra State Electricity Board)  limits the Solar Roof-top PV capacity to 80% of the sanctioned load of the consumer If  the sanctioned load  is 8 kW, then maximum solar that can be installed is 5.6 kWp This  means that installation of RTS is feasible only  for big  consumers  By limiting net metering only for residential users, who typically use less power, the DISCOMs have smartly ensured not much rooftop solar installations will now be commissioned The new policy of grid support charges , ranging from Rs 4 to 9 per unit, will make even small RTS commercially unviable Larger RTS installations, 10KW will also become uneconomical.

Maharashtra  governments reneging on contracts for NM : State governments are  claiming that there is abundant power so they donot need to square the consumption of RTS against power produced by Net metering. So DISCOMs are  now reneging on contractual obligation of net metering. For example, Karnataka switched to gross metering recently Now Maharashtra is forcing Gross metering on all solar producers MSEDCL(Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution company Ltd)  has now proposed to replace net metering by gross metering for all producers except residential ones Secondly  net metering will be applicable only up to 300 units per month for residential household consumer Thus hotels, offices, societies(large consumers of electricity)  who had  installed rooftop solar( or who are considering rooftop solar) the payback for investment now stretches beyond 25 years see chart 2 Those who invested in rooftop solar PV (ie hotels, offices, colleges, hospitals or CHS) who had installed rooftop solar on assumption of net metering,  now have to write off the entire investment UP and Telangana were the only two states who had gross metering while most other states in India have net metering. Now its time before all other state DISCOMs too force their RTS to GM.

Forcing Gross metering is gross injustice to those who invested under RTS: The payback under RTS under NM( net metering (without subsidy) was less than 7 years ,This excellent payback was without  availing subsidy or depreciation benefits (see chart 1)

“Net metering” was a great option for high consumers of electricity As power tariffs keep increasing, the payback on investment is faster.   The investment in RTS pays back @ rate of power tariffs. As the rate of power climbs up, the investment pays back earlier. As the tariffs for power are very high in India for commercial consumers (Rs 11 per unit in Maharashtra), the net metering was a great investment even with out availing subsidy See charts below Chart I

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Chart II (Payback under gross metering stretches beyond 24 years due to low tariffs at which power is purchased by DISCOM

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Economy of scale not possible for smaller size RTS   As  most of the RTS(Rooftop Solar) units are typically less than 10 KW, they cannot have the economy of scale that is possible for captive solar PV (size above 100 KW). In addition captive solar generators tie up for long term finance raising funds from international markets or PE investors RTS would have been self financed  or by private bank @ 11% rate of interest Thus to equate both by purchasing the power produced @ Rs 3 per unit is gross injustice and betrayal by government If government keeps changing policies at short notice, how can they expect anyone to invest in infrastructural schemes

Cheap Power due market dynamics : Large solar PV captive power producers are now willing to supply power at less than Rs 3 per unit (for solar PV) and less than Rs 6 to 16 for large coal based power projects This is huge discount over times when Enron was supplying power to MSEB @ RS 16 per unit in 1990’s The average tariffs at which consumers are charges ranges from Rs 6 to Rs 11 , giving DISCOMs net margin of Rs 3 to Rs 5 per unit In spite of this, the state of DISCOMs is pitiable, with huge losses, Rs 4.3 lakh crores(Rs 4.3 Trillion or US$ 61 billion) The losses are  due to  election promises  of politicians  to provide free power to farmers, high transmission losses and un remunerative policies of providing power to rural areas that have low purchasing power. Countries like Germany buy solar PV power at much higher rates to encourage it while in India, its exactly reverse scenario. Clean solar power sourced @ RS 3 is subsidizing dirty coal power sourced at @ RS 9 to 12  per unit ! What can be more ironical !  What a  way to encourage green renewable power? 

Don’t give alms (ie subsidy) but least government can do is not to  renege on contractual obligations India has grand plans of generating 175 Giga (175,000 MW)  of renewable power by 2022 of which RTS is  supposed to be 40 Giga (40,000 MW) On paper,  MNRE ( Ministry of New and Renewable Energy ) has been  promising sops like subsidy Rs 15,000 per solar PV panel  However the subsidy for solar PV has  remained only on paper as it has never been disbursed to commoners Instead of offering sops like subsidy, bold policies like net metering, for large consumers,  will induce high investments in RTS by hotels, hospitals, colleges, office building  The power tariffs need to be raised to reduce losses of DISCOMs Raising of tariffs automatically encourages consumers to invest in RTS. The target of 40 Gigawatt of  RTS power can be achieved only if rooftop solar’s potential is harnessed. However by reneging on net metering contracts for projects already commissioned , Maharashtra government has done a great harm to the green movement. At the moment, UP, Karnataka,  and Telangana are the only three states in India who use gross metering with Maharashatra now joining the list.

Reasons for losses of DISCOMs: DISCOMS are unable to renegotiate old PPAs(power purchase agreements) for coal/nuclear/hydro  power projects that are for long duration These PPAs are forcing DISCOMS to buy power at older higher tariffs  DISCOMS are unable to raise tariffs due to populism of India’s politicians In addition, India’s politicians providing free power charges to farmers or providing electricity to distant places, that have no purchasing power. All this has mired the all state DISCOMs into thousands of crores of losses.  In November 2015, the accumulated losses of these discoms amounted to Rs 4.3 lakh crore(Rs 4.3 Trillion or US$ 61 billion) )  with annual incremental losses of Rs 60,000 crore.

Arm twisting of solar power generators  : The urban (both industrial and residential) consumers who pay for electricity charges on time at highest tariffs,(ranging from Rs 9 to Rs 11) , is only one segment  of consumers  that is sustaining  the DISCOMs This premium segment of consumers, can potentially turn into producers of power by installing RTS. The DISCOMS rightly do  not wish  to lose such customers into becoming prosumers ( prosumer means consumers cum producers) For meeting  altruistic global  goals like meeting target for newable or  power , to arrest climate change, private investments are necessary . By twisting  arm of small RTS by reneging on contracts  is unjustifiable, not only  on business ethics but it conflicts with India meeting ecological goals under Paris agreement. Such frequent policy changes dent  credibility of the government in seeking private  partners for meeting ecological goals like renewable solar power from rooftop.

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is BE(Electrical) from VJTI and MMS(Finance) from NMIMS(university of Bombay) He is also  founder,trustee of SLK Foundation , a 23 years old registered charitable trust  for sustainable development. www.slkfoundation.in . email slkfoundation.in@gmail.com

 

Misplaced nationalism of the displaced

 

Going back to roots : Last week, I was rather surprised to see picture of my MBA batch mate,  Riyaz Sayeed (name changed) Riyaz  was seen brandishing traditional Muslim haircut, with longish flowing  beard (without mustache)    Riyaz , after doing engineering and MBA from premier colleges in India,  has been working as  IT professional in USA He seems to be happily settled in USA Since last two decades  Riyaz had progressed to become a USA citizen He has an Indian wife and college going kids. In eyes of many, Riyaz is a very successful individual He seems to have fulfilled the American dream Viz Independent house with lawn in suburb of USA, SUVs in parking lot, Kids in ivy league college, etc. Coming back to transformation of Riyaz, sporting a beard and hairstyle typical of a traditional  Muslim , with a skull cap too  to complete the attire. Why does Riyaz want to look like his forefathers from medieval  Middle East,  when he is fortunately in the most developed country, USA?

Disease of nationalism   has not  spared  expatriates from  any  religion  On other hand, few of my Hindu friends, who too are  happily settled down in USA,  have  got radicalized into a fanatic Hindu breed  They have become staunch supporters of right wing “sanatan Hindu rashtra” philosophy The views of such  so called “Brahmins” in USA about protection of cows, ( in a beef eating nation of USA) seems very comical to say least  ! They profess that Hindus should continue bursting  crackers even when AQI(Air quality index) in North Indian cities  is in excess of hazardous levels !

“Doesn’t Bakari Eid also not cause pollution “? they ask to counter question when there are reports of  water pollution due idol immersions They  argue, sitting in pollution free city of USA,  about “why Holi should be celebrated traditional way, ie  making huge bonfires “or why  “Ravana effigy should be burnt on Dasara? These are part of our traditions ! ” , so they proclaim This is our Hindu religion (“Our equal  right to pollute!”)  They are mixed up between social customs that are not even two generations old and religious traditions or sanatan dharma  that span since eternal times in India Few of the NRIs  have also turned into die hard vegetarians Their religious beliefs are so strong that they  can sue an airline or fast food joints like McDonalds,  for wrongly serving them a slice of beef!  Few among them  may turn into staunch Vegans shunning even the dairy product, to save cows of the world!

Championing abstract causes in distant home land :  Thus such a group of  expatriates,  belonging to any religion, would be fervently championing abstract causes in a distant home lands  like   fanatical notions of India becoming aHindu Rashtra  or a grand temple in Ayodhya or fight to finish with Pakistan over occupied Kashmir. They  have extreme solutions to  solve complex problems of India like Kashmir, after abolition of Article 370. “Go and occupy Kashmir”, they order to Hindus living in other parts of India, while sitting in safety of a US suburb !  No wonder these  NRI “bhaktas” from a distant land, are very  enthused  by rise of BJP in India, led by Shri Narendra Modi The PIOs(persons of Indian origin)  thronged PM Modi’s rally in Houston last year lustily cheering , Modi, Modi , the messiah of HIndus in India. Lest I am accused of singling out only Hindus, few of the Muslims migrants from Indian subcontinent would have become more  traditional viz  keeping a strict Ramadan fast, growing a beard, sporting hairstyle and beard of traditional Muslim or even doing the annual animal sacrifice on  day of Bakri Id They will  be quoting frequently  from verses of Quoran now and then. The Muslim men  in UK, originally from Pakistan,  are seen protesting violently for perceived problems of the Muslim fraternity in Kashmir of India  The PIOs from Sikh community  fight to wear the  turban, external symbol of their religious identity Similar regression may be also observed  in Jews settled in USA who adorn attire from medieval times So expatriates from Indian subcontinent  are not a class apart  I am sure, prior to migrating  to western countries, these individuals were perfectly ” normal ” chaps! Typical technology graduates, with above average intelligence , that got them into premier colleges  They would not have done an iota of social or religious or political  activities while in India They may have never visited  any religious place  or read any scriptures . Yet now they are turned into most fanatical supporters of ancient religion of their distant home land This trend, when a person who has made material progress, yet seems to have regressed in mind, seems like a global trend among expatriates, not limited to only PIOs

Does “virus of nationalism” seems to affect only men ? : Women who migrate to western countries are not afflicted by such pseudo  nationalism . Women are very happy to settle down to a life of conveniences as compared to one in India. They may take active interest in local politics rather than going back to their country of origin.

This transformation from “purely intellectual logical  thinking” to a “ leap of faith” made me ask questions given below

  1. What transformation (or metamorphosis or degeneration or mutation  as per one’s view point), happens to few of the first generation migrants settled particularly  in liberal western countries like USA, Canada, UK ?
  2. Why do few of these seemingly  well placed   progressively get  radicalized as they approach  their middle age ?
  3. What  the environmental factors that affect few of such well placed  but displaced fellows to venture into extreme boundaries  religious fervor  in a foreign land ?

These people,  had they not migrated, would not have exhibited similar radicalized signs.

 

Why humans migrate ? Humans migrate, mainly for better pastures : Like birds, humans migrate to far away lands , in search of better livelihood Few migrate  to escape hardships, natural calamities or serious war like situation in their country due to internal strife, civil  war, etc   The 20th century had witnessed such massive  migrations from poorer countries to richer nations like USA, Australia, UK. Jhumpa Lahiri, V S Naipaul, have contributed to  literature that captures the existential crisis that such migrants go through in a foreign land, where there are no  support systems exist  like a large family provides in India.

Mid life crisis ; After Material success comes an emptiness and search for an identity   :  After initial struggles, most of migrants from Asian countries  to western hemisphere are success stories They climb social hierarchy in a new milieu, using their  education,, aided by fluency in English language.They thus fulfill  the American dream; viz a large suburban house, big cars, kids in ivy league colleges, etc However once they advance in age, their  kids move away, both emotionally and physically. The kids grow up with no attachment  for parental  homeland. At this stage,  a deeper longing to preserve one’s identity arises , which seeks to  find solace in going back to the roots

Personal experience of living in USA:  When I was in IT industry I have personal experience of living in USA for more than one year I have noted that in USA daily commuting time is saved This is due to better infrastructure. However there is  lack of social support structure of India like larger number of relatives, friends, colleagues The Indian diaspora in western society does help to some extent to bond but cannot fully compensate such a loss.  Hence spending time on weekends used to be a problem Getting two full days off in a week, was a luxury for me as there are not many  chores to do for me as a visitor in USA As contrast, in India, one rarely has such existential problem of killing time ; Most time goes in commuting on weekdays leaving one dead tired. Most people work on Saturdays too , leaving only Sunday to complete household chores or to recuperate from the harsh demands on time.  In India, I have rarely gone to a temple However in USA I found going to temple was a convenient place; to meet other Indians and also to pass time in religious cum social festivals.

 Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the person And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency”  As per Maslow’s hierarchy, after meeting physiological needs,  they look for psychological needs, like seeking esteem or social recognition As per Maslow, this is but one step to final destination of pyramid, self realization or self actualization

This five-stage Maslow model can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are often referred to as deficiency needs (D-needs), and the top level is known as growth or being needs (B-needs).

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Once met, deficiency needs cease to motivate : Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation and are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the motivation to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry they will become. The time when the NRIs migrated to western countries, (1980’s to 2000)  India was indeed deficient in providing many prerequisites for a good quality of life . Post IT boom, this is no longer the case for upper strata of society  The IT boom has made at least many of the local Indians rich akin to baby boomers of USA of 1960’s. .

After material success , the psychological needs kick in , like  discovering a sense of belonging  The “longing  to belong”is  the second needOnce the basic physiological needs like Roti, Kapada, Makaan (ie bread, clothes and home) are met, as per Maslow, the higher level  needs , psychological  needs arise .Maslow (1943) initially stated that individuals must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs These are  sense of belonging It is in this phase that many migrants look back to their motherland as they are unable to assimilate into foreign land. Many start contributing generously to social causes in their native place Few also get radicalized and start supporting extremists, militant organizations What transforms such individuals into radicals should be subject of research However there are many examples of how such peoples presumably good intentions to do something  for their nations gets into hands of extremists

Extremist movements funded by expatriates : The Khalistan movement was funded by Punjabi NRIs from UK, Canada. IS or its more  extreme cousin ISIS have been funded by Muslim expatriates from wealthy countries  Nowadays, when focus is on Islamic terrorism, it is not politically convenient to talk about the heinous crimes done by the Sikh terrorists like blowing up of Air india jumbo jet 747, Kanishka,  on way from Tornoto to London in 1985 What made the well placed country cousins of Punjabi Sikh NRIs to do such dastardly act? By the way as a strange quirk of fate, the commander of  the Air India B-747 Kanishlka, that was blown up at 35000 feet from ground, was a devout Sikh pilot. The country cousins of Khalistan movement thus killed one of their own kin while making a point on Khalisthan.

Love of homeland of  few of the expatriates  had metastasized   

Keeping individual identity alive in a western melting pot : Keeping identity alive in a melting pot of a western society is not easy . For that the outer symbols like our festivals, our style of clothing, our cuisine and rituals  get copied .More difficult is to merge with country of migration ibut retain the quintessence of the timeless values of our ancient homeland.  Many NRIs are great success stories as leading industrialists and philanthropists who have invested in businesses in India Many MNCs in USA are now headed by PIOs such companies, Google, Microsoft to name a few,  have invested in their captive IT arms in India.  Thus the PIOs have to some extent redeemed debt of the motherland

Its natural that the expatriates   wish to retain their individual identity alive than to disappear in melting pot of a western society By retaining their identity they wish to stand out in a mosaic of western society However in most cases, the lowest common denominator of their original faith gets retained, leaving out the “core”.

From sense of belonging to self actualization There are many examples of expatriates like Dr. Deepak Chopra, who have reached the zenith of their abilities transcending parochial nationalistic borders They could successfully articulate the timeless values that ancient India gave to the world from Upanishads, Yoga, Ayurveda, etc                          वसुधैव  कुटुंबकं (The whole earth is one family) proclaims ancient Indian texts so expand your definition of a nation and you will be at peace. Ultimately self actualization is the last point in Maslow’s hierarchy . All the rest, steps are but stops in the journey, are not important. Here’s wishing that all displaced expatriates do not get way laid into a false nationalism and reach out to the final destination of self actualization !

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is based in Bangalore India. His e mail panditpank@gmail.com New Picture (38)

 

 

What ails India’s Full Service Carriers (like Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher)

Three problems  with one answer : There is one Akbar Birbal story, where Birbal is asked by Akbar, solution to three problem questions Birbal gives identical solution to all three of problmes (* see Note 1)

Similarly if  a question is posed, what is the reason behind failure of three of India’s Full Service carriers(FSCs) namely Jet Airways, Kingfisher(both of which have gone bankrupt) and loss making national airline, Air India(now on sale)  ?

The  reason behind the demise of  all  three FSCs is identical; it’s the vanity subject of first class cabin on their long haul international flights

“Their obsession to offer “first class” seats  on the long haul flights is the reason behind their downfall.”

With a three class configuration, (First, Business and Economy) at the historic yields, none of the India’s  airlines namely Air India, Jet, and Kingfisher,  can break even on cash costs . Even on a full flight, costs are more than revenues. These airlines  can meet cash costs only for seat factor more than 100%,( impossible under any circumstances) In other words these airlines can not even  meet cash operating costs (like fuel, landing, crew allowances, maintenance etc) on a 100 percent full flight. Break even on total operating costs is still far away Naturally such a business model, akin to leaking pot, needs periodic doses of working capital loans to meet the cash losses, thus entering the airline into a debt trap. Private airlines cannot continue after certain limits on outstanding loans is reached while national carrier can continue to borrow, backed by government sovereign guarantee on their loans. Kingfisher folded up on debts of more than Rs 3000 crores, Jet Airways had  debt liabilities over Rs 12,000 crores, while Air India’s debt ballooned over Rs 80,000 crores till last year. 

  1. First class cabin is a vanity subject : If these airlines cannot meet cash costs of a flight on a 100% full flights, then the  question is , Why did these airlines continue to offer three class configuration in spite of this fact ? Like individuals organizations also do have an ego The decision to abolish first class is a vanity subject, when discussions on profits are ignored It needs lot of courage from top management to abolish first class cabin. One needs to be rational using data for decision making rather  than being unreasonable and emotional  Justification for first class cabin(with 8 or 12 seats)  needs a realistic assessment of historic data on first class uplifts  This will reveal how many discerning passengers are willing to pay this price on long haul routes. If data reveals that such high flying first class passengers are a very rare breed then,  the opportunity cost of empty section on long haul flights is exorbitant hence questionable.
  2. Occupancy at cost of yields : Airlines can fill the first class seats by upgrading passengers or offer companion free or using it for staff travel However the yield on first class uplifts will remain very low in such cases even though occupancy may increase.
  3. Reason why few international airlines offer first class cabin on long haul flights  Very few airlines  in USA offer first class on their long haul flights ; They  offer Business class, and economy class Few airlines calibrate economy cabin by offering  premium economy class with better leg room and higher seat pitch .Low cost carriers (LCCs) are at other extreme of a business model which offers single economy class cabin
  4. Why LCCs like Indigo are expanding profitably in India while the FSCs are folding up? It’s because their  single class configuration  breaks even on cash costs on lower seat factor.
  5.  Thin operating margins Airline business is a very demanding business of small operating margins(5 to 10%)  Hence impeccable cabin service in first/business class cabin may seem great from passengers’ point of view but is not good enough for the airline to survive while facing competitive challenges of airline industry. That’s why Kingfisher (king of good times) and Jet Airways (with equally good customer service standards) have gone bankrupt. Don’t pamper your passengers !
  6.  Importance of getting schedule right : After fixing a cabin configuration that breaks even on cash costs @ 75% seat factor, the next step is to set the sail to catch trade winds The three important aspects  airline industry are Schedule   Schedule and Schedule(just as location, location and location matter most for real estate industry)

Chart I Comparative Unit cost Cost per ASKM -Indigo, Jet and Air India  (ref SAP analytics) 

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Success of LCCs  (Low cost carriers) shows the way Indigo, a late comer in India’s skies,  has become not only the most profitable and largest airline  but also fastest growing airline Indigo has now largest domestic market share,  about 50% in India , overtaking national airline(12%) which was  set up years before Indigo had 33% lower unit costs CASKM (Cost per ASKM) than Jet and Air India (2014) It’s likely Indigo’s current costs will also be 30-35% lower Now Indigo is flying to short haul international destinations in SE Asia, Middle East as well, driving this cost competitiveness to expand its footprint in international operations

  1. It did not matter to India’s discerning, value seeking  air passengers that Indigo offered no complimentary meals, no  hot towel, no free drinks, No free bees, not  even a newspaper, in a all economy seats configuration. What mattered was their schedule with convenient timings and best punctuality
  2. Today LCCs (indigo, Spicejet and Go Air) are calling shots in India with a dominating combined market share of more than 75% or 3/4th of domestic air market , over 130 million passengers, which was growing @ 20% per year(till 2018)
  3. .India leads the world not only in lowest ARPU (for cell phones) but also lowest air fares, due innovative , privately owned LCC like Indigo.
  4. Top 10  Domestic city pairs in India have about 25% of India’s market. Its important to get airlines’ schedule right in these city pairs. The top 10 city pairs in domestic India are shown in chart II,  The LCCs like Indigo are dominating with more frequencies than FSCs on the top 20 city pairs in India With such dominance they have gained pricing power too.
  5. Chart II India’s Top 10 domestic city pairs New Picture (51).png

Chart III-No of PPDEW (Passengers per day in each direction) 

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Chart II

Long tail of India’s fast growing domestic air market : If we analyse flight schedules of Indigo with other FSCs , for top 20 city pairs, then we can see that Indigo has pricing power purely  due to superior flight  schedules. As a start, one needs to establish presence in the top 15 domestic city pairs, which is only 35%  of the total market. See chart III  Even top 50 city pairs in India, has only 55% of total market Thus for a widely dispersed market like this, it is must to focus on few growth markets using North-South and East-West connectivity for a FSC airline Unlike LCC which offers point to point services, FSC has to use Hub and Spoke network. Therefore a scheduling framework  with demand /supply analysis of each city pair, plotting  all departures of competitors in these city pairs , will  reveal how the  airline can set better sail to catch trade winds.

Those who refuse to change perish : So let’s not shed tears for dinosaurs like FSCs  who refused to change as per times. The fact is that the old relics of “License, Quota, Raj” cannot compete with young LCCs that have 30-35% lower unit costs. There’s no place for vanity except history !

Last word : Reason why Kingfisher, Jet collapsed and reason why Air India continues to be  on ventilator support from government is due to  inability to address the strategic issues summed up by 4C’s namely Cost , Calendar, Clock, and Capacity All the 4Cs decisions are all related to flight schedule of the airline. The top management has to take these strategic “4C” decisions for tweaking the flight schedules rather than wasting time to other tactical decisions (like say 4Ps,  Pricing or place, or promotional issues).

 For this the use strategic levers 4C*s (Calendar, Clock, Cost and Capacity ) with route profitability (BCG like framework) needs to be undertaken To  identify Star routes(High operating margin,high growth) ; Cash cows(high Op margin, low growth) , Question marks(Negative margin, high growth), and problem child(negative margin, negative growth)  among routes. Star routes need capacity addition;  Cash cow routes, need to maintain capacity;  Question Mark routes, need tweaking in capacity(4Cs) while Problem child routes, need to be shut down. While government is clearing decks to sell 100% stake in national carrier, by reducing its working capital debt,  it may be worth while to plug holes in the leaking pot before it is  sold. Even for  a debt free airline, makes no sense for an investor, if  it is losing money of full flights.

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Note 1: The Akbar-Birbal story where three problems  have identical solution :  Birbal was asked to solve three problems  a. Why did the horse stall during ride ?b. Why did the beetal leaf turn yellow ? c, Why  did the bread(roti)  was burnt? Answer to all the three questions is because of lack of movement/rotation!

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New Picture (38)Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mai panditpank@gmail.com

 

End of Thomas Cook, UK. What went wrong?

TC

Thomas Cook, UK goes bankrupt : Thomas Cook, UK a 178 years old travel firm went bankrupt in Sept 2019  It was the largest brick and mortar travel agency of UK with offices in key locations spread over the country . Through its journey Thomas cook profitably expanded through backward integration in aviation value chain, starting from a travel intermediary to become a foreign exchange dealer, then  it further evolved to became a leisure  airline, offering its passengers a complete seamless holiday package on its own aircraft Thomas Cook and TUI were two charter airlines from UK  that offered air connectivity to holiday  travelers total holiday package  on their own charter airline , including hotels, surface transport, etc  at holiday destination These tours were  to primarily to “sunny” destinations  such as Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, Carribean islands, etc to escape cold and frosty England. Thomas Cook’s  logo too branded  a “sunny heart”

What went wrong with Thomas Cook, UK ?

Most of the news in media blames their  demise to Brexit/slow economy  or to its expensive acquisition of My Travel However for an analyst of trends in UK air market, it is evident that the issues that caused its downfall were neither cyclical nor seasonal ones but rather systemic ones. Inability to adapt to changing business climate seems to be the main cause of its downfall

Chart I

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  1. Declining UK charter market with negative CAGR 7 % since last 15 years

There are two  charter airlines, namely TUI and Thomas Cook (Monarch Airlines already filed for bankruptcy earlier last year) The charter market out of UK  has been shrinking since last 15 years @ negative CAGR7%. During good years, the decline is in single digits while in bad years, the decline can be in double digits as seen from the chart I above

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Chart II

Under performance of charter uplifts with overall market  The charter airlines market has been shrinking @ CAGR 7% since last 15 years , even though the  overall passenger market has been growing @ healthy CAGR 5% Most of the growth going to LCCs like Ryan Air, and Easy Jet  For example, in 2004, the share of charter airlines  was 30% of total market which fell to less than 10%  since then. See chart II The numbers in 2018 show that passengers on scheduled flights have increased against 2014, However scheduled passenger uplifts have outperformed the increase in charter passengers. The rise in charter passengers from 2014 to 2018(19%)  is facile as it should be viewed against much more increase (25%) in scheduled passengers during same period  Such rapid shift in relative market share  in charter passengers as against rising number of schedules airlines passengers is pointing to shifts in consumers preferences,  a  portend of coming crisis for charter operators.

  1. Sub optimal  fleet utilization Thomas Cook airlines had a heterogeneous fleet about 100 numbers of  aircraft  that consisted of six versions of Airbus/Boeing in 2014 Such fleet complexity  would have made it difficult as well as costly  to manage flight operations from many aspects like crew scheduling, aircraft maintenance, passenger seating, airport handling, spare parts, etc. In 2018, the number of aircraft had been drastically reduced to only 28 numbers with  almost all Airbus fleet The daily  utilization has improved above 12 average per day  However their  aircraft utilization in terms of load factor below 90% which is sub optimal As compared to this, LCCs like Ryan Air, have much better fleet utilization. A charter airline usually operates with above 95% load factors as passengers booked are not allowed to change their itinerary.

Chart III(2014)

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Chart IV(2018) 

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3. Increasing competition from LCCs like Easyjet, Ryan Air : The charter flights operate from three  UK airports, Gatewick, Manchester and Birmingham The LCCs in UK namely Ryan Air and Easyjet offer cheaper flights from UK destinations to  key tourist destinations to Spain, Portugal, Egypt,  at fraction of cost of charter flights,  The bulk of charter market from UK is to  EEA(which is 80% of total) faced severe competition from LCCs. See Chart V below

Chart V 

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Due to economic slowdown there is less preference for expensive packaged holidays.Price vs. Value analysis with LCCs  reveals that charter airlines package works out very expensive than someone who can buy tickets on LCCs and looks for bargains on hotels through travel websites.

Digital world taking over : Its possible for an ordinary, not necessarily a  travel savvy person,  to patch up  a holiday package with few clicks saving huge money The high cost of brick and mortar model , with posh offices in high street across country is giving negative returns as compared to profitable travel websites The  cost : revenue  ratios of majority offices would have indicated need to reduce  costs or increase revenues to meet the gap. Slow economy, Brexit uncertainties, weather changes, turmoil in Turkey, Egypt and ill timed acquisition of My Travel  have simply accentuated the downfall that seemed imminent from shifting sands in leisure travel business.

Fallout of Thomas Cook, UK collapse : Loss of over 30,000 direct jobs in UK , heavy cost to UK economy already reeling under Brexit, for bringing thousands  of stranded passengers back( due to underwriting of government insurance that protects  air package holidays sold by Thomas cook) and finally cost to  bankers like RBS of write off of loans, write off of airport , fuel charges, unpaid bills of debtors, huge losses to aircraft leasing industry as most of Thomas Cook Airlines’ aircraft   were on lease, stress caused to thousands  of stranded passengers on a holiday are only a few follow outs of  failure of Thomas Cook UK The indirect job losses from their travel supply chain partners in other continents viz  BPO, IT support, accounting, will be many more, In year 2018, about 40,000 number of tourists arrived(significant improvement over 31000nos  in 2017) on charter flights from UK to Goa, India’s best known tourist destination. Due to closure of Thomas Cook UK, impact on tourist arrivals in Goa seems negligible  as the numbers are very small Also these tourists to Goa,  most likely have come on flights operated by other UK based charter operator, TUI.

Like dinosaurs, any organization that refuses to  adapt  to changes in business atmosphere becomes extinct Its  demise can be prolonged with ventilator support from investors, bankers, private equity but sooner than later,  the unsustainable operations have to  end as the organization had refused to make changes in its business model in tune with changing times. 

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Note All data publicly available has been sourced from UK-CAA website No data is confidential to Thomas Cook or TUI has been referenced

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mai panditpank@gmail.com

 

Opportunities for Indian NBFCs in Aircraft leasing

 

Indian banks allowed to  enter aircraft leasing As per budget announcements for 2019/20, Indian government has allowed  banks, NBFCs  to undertake leasing/financing aircraft purchases.  India’s domestic air market is 500 plus commercial aircraft strong, 138 million passengers per year, growing at average 20% per annum (2014-2019)

On base of such strong home market, Indian companies have an opportunity to penetrate several components of the global aviation value chain, starting from Aircraft OEMs, MRO(maintenance Repair and Overhaul), Airline IT, BPO, and now aircraft finance and leasing. To make a foray in the global market for aircraft finance, not only  financial and intellectual capital , airline domain knowledge necessary but also low cost of capital , low taxation rates,  ability to raise international loans at competitive interest rates over LIBOR (due to better  credit rating of country)  also required. Aircraft leasing companies  are often backed by banks, hedge funds or NBFC/financial institutions.

 

Aviation Value Chain

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China leagues ahead of India in penetrating aviation value chain : China has  deeply penetrated the aviation value chain . China has a joint venture with Airbus , making the country base for assembly of Airbus planes at Tianjin since 1993. China is now offering C-919, narrow body aircraft made in China to compete with Boeing-737 and Airbus 321s. Since 2007 when it entered aircraft leasing, today   nine  Chinese companies figure in top 50 leasing companies of the world . The Chinese leasing companies are backed by a strong Chinese currency buoyed by  export surplus,  growing domestic market. Low income tax in SEZs like Hongkong  leap frogged Chinese companies  into global aircraft leasing industry.

 Monopolistic nature of  aviation value chain (except airlines/travel agents)

The aviation value chain consists of  two aircraft  manufacturers(viz Boeing/Airbus) , aircraft engine OEMs (viz P&W, GE, Rolls Royse ), aircraft leasing financers(Aer Capital, GECAS, Avocon), airline IT providers, online travel agents/Travel agents, and finally airlines. Aviation value chain has monopolistic players , not more than two or three in each  sections Entry barriers are set by not only technology but heavy demands of capital in foreign exchange. The monopolies in each of the aviation value chain are very difficult for a new player to penetrate.On the contrary, airlines, and travel agents, have low entry barriers, both in capital requirement or technology  Hence  severe competition exists in these sectors .

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Three leasing companies have more than 50% market share : The leasing industry of today originated  with  Ireland based GPA (Guinness Peat Aviation) . However GPA  went bust in 1992. Most of the veterans of leasing industry of today are alumni from GPA Today’s leasing industry works from global tax shelters like Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong , SEZs of China

It’s  dominated by three players, Ireland based Aer Capital(which has acquired ILFC), Singapore based GECAS and Ireland based Avocon(which has acquired CIT Aerospace ), having  about 50% of total market share; the top 10 companies shown in graph have 90% market share. Thus its obvious unless leasing companies reach a scale, they cannot be competitive. 

Evolution of aircraft leasing : Aircraft leasing companies  evolved from simply financing aircraft deals (like Buy and lease backs) to placing huge orders with aircraft OEMs like Boeing/Airbus. Leasing is more popular for narrow body aircraft Leasing companies also buy/sell used aircrafts  Ordering new aircraft directly from aircraft OEMs not only gives them competitive edge but ability to offer shorter delivery times too.

Today global aircraft leasing industry is valued at US$150 billion, with over 5000 nos of aircraft,  40%  market share of global market. With global airline industry enjoying longest run of profitable growth, both Boeing and Airbus  have a long wait list Thus smaller airlines have no option but to  take aircraft on operating lease, for shorter delivery times..

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It’s possible for the airline to claim depreciation on aircraft for operating leases Leasing companies lease more planes during booming times while they buy planes in lean times, taking advantage of  cyclical nature of airline industry.

Buy and Lease back : Airlines after acquiring aircraft from aircraft OEMS, enter into , “buy and lease back” arrangement(example, Indigo, Air India)  As the aircraft  would be revalued at higher price by the  lessor, airline claims one time gains  At the end of the lease period  the airline claims the aircraft..

“Make in India” With a robust domestic air market, India has an opportunity to penetrate each component of the aviation value chain., Ideally Indian banks, NBFCs , would be focused on leasing aircraft to India’s domestic airlines. However their customers are limited

Here’s why” The largest and oldest full service private airline, Jet Airways is no more . Air India  is likely to be disinvested by government In any case, Air India’s “buy and lease back” had sovereign guarantee from Indian government.  Indigo has ordered 430 number aircraft from Airbus at competitive prices So Indigo can potentially enter aircraft leasing business, leveraging its order for brand new Airbus A 320- neo with CFM engines. Obviously it would be looking for customers outside India.

Breaking glass ceiling in Aircraft leasing  : The history airline leasing industry is littered with many bankruptcies as it’s a risky business. Leasing companies take currency risk, business risk and credit risk when financing or ordering aircrafts. Notice how new aircrafts like B-787, B-737 Max or A-320 Neo (with P&W engines) were plagued by technical issues, leading to grounding of fleet or modifications on safety concerns  Private equity or hedge funds can take  risks as their investors are well aware of risk/reward ratio  Indian banks/NBFCs already reeling under severe bad loan crisis. Do they have  risk appetite necessary for aircraft leasing ?

Challenges for leasing industry in India The high corporate taxation in India , vulnerability of Indian rupee due  current account deficit, low credit rating of India(BBB-minus as per S&P in 2019)  means the aircraft leasing in India will have to overcome severe challenges. Growing  by acquisition route  is an expensive way; what the fledgling industry  needs is a  launch customer with sizable orders, to reach critical mass for breaking the glass ceiling in aircraft leasing.

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New Picture (38).pngPankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mai panditpank@gmail.com

 

 

My tribute to Yogesh Chandra Deveshwar, Air India’s CMD during 1990’s

YCD        Shri Yogesh Chandra Deveshwar( better known as Yogi or YCD) was Air India’s Chairman and Managing director (CMD) for a little over two years period during Nov 1991-Feb 1994. Then in his mid 40’s, YCD was tall, well built, affable , very charming figure He must be among the youngest CMDs of Air India. Late Madhavrao Scindia, then Minister of state for civil aviation. appointed YCD as Chairman – Managing Director of Air India. Much ahead of the times, Mr Scindia had realized that government should dis invest from running national airlines. In spite of having monopoly, both Air India and Indian Airlines were never consistently profitable.Both airlines were plagued by bad industrial relations. These airlines during monopoly era, used to be frequently rocked by employee agitations, strikes that completely crippled not only airline operations but nation’s economy as these  were monopolies . The main task of the CMD of Air India, or Indian Airlines the twin government owned airlines,  used to be “managing” the militant workers  unions of pilots, cabin crew and aircraft maintenance engineers(AMEs) Mr Scindia hand picked Yogesh Chandra Deveshwar,as CMD of Air India He was supposed to restructure the airline, preparing grounds for partial dilution of government stake . YCD was then  executive from ITC’s hotel division. YCD had impressive educational background, engineering graduate IIT (Delhi) followed by a management program at Harward Business school. Like Rajan Jaitley, the previous CMD of Air India, YCD too came from hospitality background.
Person of integrity As office bearer of AIOA(Air India Officers Association) I had opportunity of several personal interactions with YCD. He came across as a well meaning affable, although a  bit naive person,  with high emphasis on personal moral values like integrity. For example, he stayed in ITC guesthouse while his Air India flat was getting ready unlike his predecessors would have stayed in five star hotel like Taj  at Air India’s cost Such exemplary thrifty behavior was indeed exceptional in Air India of those times when imperial Maharajah remained as role model

He started a culture of presentations in Air India as he wanted to understand the airline industry Then I worked in office of airport manager, Mumbai airport Air India’s  flights were plagued by issues like poor  punctuality/dispatch reliability Then presentation slides were made on plastic transparencies which were shown on slide projector. In this era before outsourcing became a norm, Air India had tremendous staff shortage in customer facing functions like check in, ground handling, etc The cabin crew union insisted on higher number of cabin crew with unchangeable(not negotiable)  ratio between male and female cabin crew At slightest provocation, flights would be grounded by cabin crew or pilots whose unions set several conditions on how to run the airline.
Learning ropes in a new industry : During 1990’s Air India had a total monopoly in international market . There was no problem in filling flights to ME, USA, and UK. Air India had other acute problems managing recalcitrant or militant unions of pilots, AMEs and Cabin crew, ground staff in that order. YCD was a good listener  who used to sit patiently in long presentation reviews, marathon meetings, puffing cigarettes. He took quick decisions on many pending issues. His friendly, affable approach, easy accessibility were  a marked contrast  with the high handed approach of his predecessor, Shri Rajan Jaitlay who also was a political appointee. Finally, at the end of his first 100 days in office, YCD gave a presentation to key Air Indians on his understanding of challenges before  the airline ,  Then Air India was sitting pretty, having declared profits of over Rs 400 crores However six Boeing 747-400’s had been ordered YCD correctly prophesied that unless Air India raises its passenger revenues appreciably , else  the interest burden of fleet renewal estimated Rs 4000 crores,  will push airline into loss. During those times, most of the energy of top management was spent on internal firefighting with little attention to issues like needs of the customer.

Air India was not aligned to interests of passengers All flights of Air India, even short haul flights to Middle East, were routed from Mumbai while the passengers  desired for direct flights to South Indian cities like Kozikode(CCJ), Mangalore, . With its unionized cabin crew based in aamchi Mumbai, engineering  maintenance base in  Mumbai, Air India could not offer direct flights from these interior points During 1990’s attempts of foreign airlines to operate such flights were stymied by Air India in league with Ministry of Civil Aviation that granted such flying rights. Protecting Air India’s interests was given a higher priority over passengers interests by government During those times, government of India brought air cargo under open sky policy  ignoring protests from Air India, which could not offer cargo space for burgeoning exports. During these times, unions of pilots, engineers and cabin crew were the real bosses AT short notice, they would give call for strikes Nothing could be done without placating these unions, During such times, YCD  tried his best to bring a culture of professionalism, openness in working  of various departments of Air India,  stifled by government like bureaucracy. A theme song on Air India, Hum Hai Air Indian,  was developed during his tenure to bring all employees together. It used to played like an anthem to discover pride in working for Air India
Key Milestones during YCD’s times
1.Diamond jubilee celebrations in presence of JRD : During his time, Air India celebrated diamond jubilee on 15th Oct 1992 at a glittering ceremony in Taj Hotel where Mr JRD Tata was felicitated . All Air Indians were given a Titan wrist watch a memento.The “feelgood” factor of being in a profitable high profile airline was perceptible
2.Fleet Synergies with Indian Airlines for domestic hub and spoke flights:    In January 1994, Air India and Indian Airlines commenced hub and spoke operations with Air India flight numbers and Indian Airlines Boeing 737/Airbus 320 aircraft. These flights operated from Hyderabad and Ahmedabad to Mumbai and from Amritsar and Ahmedabad to Delhi. This saved huge costs for Air India as wide body aircraft was used for hub and spoke earlier (By the way, wide body aircraft are still used today by Air India between Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Delhi even though Air India has been merged with Indian Airlines The costs of using inappropriate aircraft are estimated to be Rs 330 Crores per year)  Also it increased aircraft utilization for Indian Airlines as aircraft were used in the night when there was no demand for domestic sectors. Such joint fleet utilization among both government owned airlines though logical step, was never taken earlier.

3. Private airlines enter civil aviation sector The Air Corporations(Transfer of undertakings and Repeal) ordinance was passed by parliament that made grounds for entry of private airlines like Jet . Notification issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism, Department of Civil Aviation, Government of India states

4. Air India converted from a corporation to Limited company : “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Air Corporations (Transfer of Undertakings and Repeal) Ordinance, 1994 (4 of 1994), the Central Government hereby appoints the first day of March 1994 as the date on which the undertakings of Indian Airlines and Air India shall be transferred to, and vest in Indian Airlines Limited and Air India Limited, respectively”. Later Air India’s bilateral entitlements to profitable operations in ME like Sharjah,  were transferred to Indian Airlines, making its foray in international flights.

Legacy of profitable operations Air India’s operations were in profitable phase from times prior to   YCD’s  tenure  So YCD inherited a profitable airline He cannot take much credit for it The  benign competitive scenario such as Air India’s special status  as only  international airline entitled to operate flights from India, Gulf boom, etc emergence of B-747 as bulk carrier on high density routes like Middle East , all ensured profits of Air India.

Abrupt turn of events ended YCD’s tenure
In Dec 1992 Mr. Madhavrao Scindia, resigned as Minister for civil aviation following a bizarre accident at Delhi’s Palam airport, with Russian aircraft on wet lease as Indian Airlines pilots were on strike Mr Schindia had taken the decision to get Russian aircraft to break strike of Indian Airlines pilots. Mr Schidia took moral responsibility of this and submitted his resignation to the then PM Shri Narasimha Rao, who accepted the resignation With Mr Scindia’s departure, YCD lost the vital support that Air India CMD needs from government to bring in any structural change. YCD had to face Joint Parliamentary committee (JPC ) probe on Harshad Mehta securities scam, where Air India had invested some funds in doubtful schemes during times of erstwhile CMD Shri SR Gupte. To add to his woes Air India’s handful Flight Engineers(FE) went on flash strike  in winter season of 1993.The newly ordered B 747-400s did not require any FE on board This would have made the FEs redundant The FE union wanted assurance on their career progression as commanders In spite of having very  few numbers, less than 100, the FEs managed to ground Air India long haul fleet This strike crippled airlines long haul international operations  affecting international flights to USA, UK, Europe, and Japan, lasted 56 days in 1993-94. Later almost all demands of FEs were agreed upon Perhaps YCD was not correctly briefed  on the severity of this issue  YCD’s inability to handle this strike, coupled with other developments like his health issues , heart surgery,  resulted in abrupt end of his tenure in Air India YCD went back to ITC a bit disillusioned , leaving mission of privatizing Air India  unfinished.

Last Word : Unfinished Agenda of privatization of national airline

The idea of privatization  of Air India was given a quiet burial, as it lost support from the ministry of civil aviation. In those times, Air India had monopoly on international routes from India’s side, while Indian Airlines ruled roost over the domestic skies. However under such benign external atmosphere, both the airlines were never consistently profitable Their challenges were internal; Managing expectations of unionized category whose demands seemed never ending , as Air India was a profitable airline  The unions of pilots, engineers, and cabin crew as well as ruling government would have found it very inconvenient in those times had Air India been privatized. The idea of privatization of Air India was revived during PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s times in year 1999.

Last CMD from private sector : By the way, Mr YCD was the last CMD of Air India  who was recruited from private sector. Since then it has become a norm to select a Joint sec level bureaucrat as CMD to run Air India. Familiarity with airline industry was no longer found necessary  to be in charge of national airline! Its still not required as a criteria!

During the times of monopoly(or oligopoly  with Indian Airlines), retaining  market share was not a problem to AI However throughout the 1990’s, the government owned airlines, faced turbulent industrial relations. The monopoly of government owned airlines gave teeth to the unions of pilots, cabin crew and aircraft engineers. The brief tenure of YCD in 1990’s gave a flicker of hope to few professional  Air Indians like me that operational  changes will come to the national airline as government stake  was to be divested and  Air India  listed on stock exchange  This flight for Air India’s privatization was missed in 1993 ! Alas it has not taken off even now after 25 years ! Much has changed  in Air India’s fortunes  since then as it survives on government support for paying salaries . YCD was a whiff of fresh air that briefly came in staid Air India CHQ at Nariman point

The challenges before Air India are now external The employee unions are no longer demanding their pound of flesh, as they know they have lost bargaining power The airline has resorted to outsourcing in many passenger facing functions at airport, ground handling, etc  Cabin crew are now hired on contract  Now the airline has to share international flying rights with other India’s  airlines like Jet, Indigo, Spicejet, etc  The bilateral rights or flight entitlements between India and several countries like ME, UK, have been highly liberalised almost akin to open sky policy Air India’s market share in domestic and international traffic has gone down to 12% in domestic markets and second  position in international markets Airlines like Emirates Ethihad (called as sixth freedom airlines) have come up in ME  These airlines have grown many times bigger than Air India funneling traffic from Indian subcontinent to Europe, UK and USA. Their rise shows what opportunity was missed by Air India . As a result, Air India is no longer a profitable airline . Governments attempts to dis invest its stake in Air India had found no takers last year.

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit, Head-Airlines Practice, Sonata Software Ltd

Pankaj Narayan Pandit joined Air India as Management Trainee in 1987,  after BE, MBA(Finance) he worked in Commercial department as Senior Manager till 2003, after which he joined IT industry as Business Consultant

How I fixed my guts to glory

No Guts no Glory! :  The word “guts” has two meanings The more common way in which the word  is used, guts  means courage . Gut actually is short form for  gastrointestinal tract, the long digestive tube, about 25-30 feet long, that is about five times our height It starts at the mouth and ends at anus.  Usually there is wisdom hidden in idioms; “No guts, no Glory” seems to indicate that our courage emanates from our guts, just as thinking and memory originates from our brain. Does a strong willed person’s self belief ,courage, ability to cope with stress ,come from gut part of the body or brain? Can one  part of body, gut with its bacterial colony , impose its will on our brain ? Who hasn’t experienced butterflies in gut, or urge to pass urine or experience bowel movement ,when faced with a challenging situation ? In the present article, the word gut is used to mean specifically the small intestine, the major portion of the gastrointestinal tract.

If we think of our “self” as a tree, then our roots run deep in the gut with brain as a pinnacle. The umbilical chord that feeds us while in mother’s womb was also rooted in the navel , center of the gut As infants, we had a close connection between our gut and brain, which got fainter as we grew older. Just as a tree that has strong roots can face stormy winds, strong guts prepare us to face challenges in life. The guts environment is defined by gut bacteria that reside in its  mucous membrane.
Fig I  figure_1

Since childhood, I  inherited  a rather  delicate  gut  My mother used to tell me about bouts of dysentery, I had suffered during infancy. May be my indigestion during those times had something to do with the factory produced baby food, ( ie powder milk) that was heavily marketed by MNCs during those times as an alternative to breast milk.

Travelling in interiors of India : After graduation, my first job,  as  sales engineer, meant  I extensively toured  the  interiors of Western India. I was drinking  water, from different regions of western  India like  MP, Gujarat, rural Maharashtra Those times were before bottled water was successfully marketed in  India by Bisleri. Until then, water was supposed to be a free commodity that has become now a resource in India . No one imagined some day Indian consumer could be persuaded to  buy filtered water almost at 50% of  price of milk

Travails of travelling  A Marathi proverb says that “ One who drinks  water from twelve different  places becomes a worldly wise man”! It means that travelling makes one worldly wise. I am not sure my travel made me wise but soon travails of  my gut caught up with me, due to combination of many factors. I enjoyed my tours to hinder lands of India , tasting diverse cuisines from different parts of India, that too at company expense!  Any big sales win used to be  celebrated with my colleagues, over beer or such alcoholic drinks  With such abuse, my delicate gut progressively became worse .I would at times, throw up after our drinking parties. I also  frequently suffered bouts of dysentery, colic pains . The stool test, barium meal , etc  revealed presence of cysts of Giardia lamblia  for causing amoebic dysentery. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics  to get rid of amoeba from intestine. The antibiotics did not give much relief. In any case, as a policy, I have always avoided allopathic medicines, as far as possible , unless in a life and death situation. This is due to an intrinsic  belief that allopathic medicines treat only the symptoms of an ailment In addition one suffers side effects of medicines Modern medicine does not go to the root cause with a holistic view unlike ancient therapies Ayurveda. This was the reason , I did not opt for MBBS (medical college ) admission even though I was eligible , after passing XII science  I  chose to be an engineer without knowing much about engineering ! (That’s another story !!)

Holy grail of alternate medicine therapies  To avoid outside foodI considered changing  my job from sales to a desk job,  that did not require any  travelling. I began practicing Yoga Asanas. I  also explored Ayurvedic OTC (over the counter ) medications like Kutajarishtha with no results One of the Ayurvedic doctors from Nasik, I consulted, advised me to enhance the fire element (ie acid)  in my gastric juices, to address problems of amoebic dysentery. The Ayurvedic therapy, Yoga Asanas went in vain, without  any permanent relief from colic pains.

Lifelong pursuit in holistic wellness: They say, “You have to lose something, as important as personal  health,  to value its  importance.Even though I did not choose to be a medical doctor by education, my frail personal health was behind my quest for alternate wellness therapies I decided to explore a longer,  holistic route to repair  my health problems. Homeopathy, Magnetic water therapy, Acupressure therapies were tried,  one by one and  discarded as mere placebos, with  no tangible physical relief. Then I was introduced to  Pranayama, a Yogic breathing practice, as a panacea for all health problems Swami Poornanandaji, who taught Mudra Pranayama,, once philosophized that  spiritual people usually have delicate tummies. Even though Pranayama gave  mental peace, stress relief, colic pains had not left me  As a result of practice of Pranayama, I voluntarily became teetotaler As a result of  Pranayama practices, I did derive  unexpected rewards on spiritual front  However  my stomach had  yet not settled  down to Nirvana, the  enduring and everlasting  peace.

Searching for panacea : Then by sheer coincidence, I met Shri Balakrishna Nalawade, proponent of biofeedback , a  nature cure therapy (Fig 2)  As a result of biofeedback ,I went through process of catharsis, whereby the toxins accumulated in digestive system got eliminated Slowly and surely my gut ecosystem settled down to a peaceful coexistence with gut parasites that antibiotics wanted to banish! Later Dr B V Khare, Urologist and nature cure practitioner  gave  scientific basis to the biofeedback nature cure therapy. Dr B V Khare, termed all bakery products (cakes, biscuits, pastries, pizza) as bekar (means useless) products to be avoided at all times. He recommended eating whole grains with sprouts, seasonal fruits, to get better results from biofeedback nature cure. He advised that Moong dal (Fig 3) is easily digestible protein and sprouts add to its vitamin content. I benefited from nature cure therapy which complimented practice of Yoga, Pranayama.

Fig 2  figure_2

Positive feedback goes to restore system stability

 

Suffering deleterious side effects of antibiotics treatment : This fairy tale however did not end without a twist in the script ! When all seemed well, one fine day I contracted  Typhoid,  called as enteric fever by medicos. The doctor prescribed particularly  strong dose of antibiotics treatment . He also forgot to prescribe vitamin supplements with antibiotics I dutifully took the full course of antibiotics ,  almost on empty stomach as I had lost appetite due to illness, without any vitamin supplements. This seemed to create havoc in my entire system, particularly as my system  was not used to any allopathic medicines.  I thought that every 500 mg antibiotic pill that I gulped, went down like a nuclear bomb through my virgin gut, destroying the intestinal flora  I completed the treatment. Soon after it ended , I simply went into delirium, euphemism for going crazy ! I had lost my mental balance. I was diagnosed as suffering from mental disorder, that affects dopamine neurotransmitters in brain . As per Hindi movie, Munnabhai sequel, Lage Raho Munnabbhai, there was a chemical locha ( imbalance ) in my brain ! After consulting a psychiatrist, and two month long treatment, I thankfully recovered without much long term damage to my health and psyche. Even though no doctor who treated  told me about what could have caused this, I intuitively believed that  the antibiotics would have caused havoc with my mental balance. There may not be  previous records that interlinked mental  disorder to antibiotics treatment .

Picking up the pieces: No other illness shakes one’s confidence and self belief like  mental illness. As per Osho, we perceive our mind closer  to  self identity than our body. Hence losing mind, seems unacceptable to one’s ego. I come out of episode of mental illness with a stronger self belief that I am the sole maker of my health (or disease) destiny. I   resolved to get back my total  health I continued  practicing  Pranayama . biofeedback nature cure , Hapkido, a Korean martial arts to restore health .

Food as medicine : I started  reading on nutrition , concluding that food .itself is a medicine, if we remove mental blocks about it. In childhood we were asked to chant one shloka,before eating food It says that food is not to be viewed as filling up tummy but to propitiate the fire in the belly, as a sacred duty. (उदरभरण नोहे जाणिजे यज्ञकर्म )(Udar Bharan Nohe, Janije Yajna Karma) I always believed that food is meant to be  enjoyed unlike popping pills, vitamin or hormonal supplements, injections All supplements tend to supply more than necessary quantity of desired nutrient, causing an imbalance and other problems We must choose natural food that we can learn to  relish, in order to digest and assimilate nutrients .

सति गदार्तस्य किमौषधिनिषेवणैः  , पथ्येsसति गदार्तस्य  किमौषधिनिषेवणैः)(Sati Gadartaya Kimaushadhi Nishewanai, Pathye sati Gadartasya Kimoushadhi Nishewanai)One  Sanskrit  proverb says that when patients’ diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; When patient’s  diet is right, medicine is not needed!

 You are what you eat; Discarding long held choices on food I came across books by Dr Malati Karwarkar , (Doctor , What I should eat) which helped me to understand about basic nutrition. I disassociated my  spiritual beliefs from my choices about food I continued to update and discard long held beliefs when presented with new facts For example, when I discovered blood thinners like garlick, onions for their sulfur compounds are great for health, I included them as  part of my daily diet Onions, and garlic have been condemned by many Yoga practitioners  as Tamasi (making one lazy and indolent )food.There after I bid good buy to many self imposed restrictions on non vegetarian food like eggs, fish, meat . I cultivated a taste for sea  fish, eggs, bits of  chicken, not only for  Omega 3 and Omega 6 fat oils ,but also for Vitamin  B-12. Lack of B-12 vitamin can cause mental illness and depression. I also included seasonal fruits, oil seeds, dry fruits like Almonds, walnuts, sprouts of Moong and dollops of ghee in my diet.

Fig 3  figure_3
Three Principles on food as per Ayurveda ..हित भुक (Heet Bhuk) (Always choose to eat what is good for you) , ऋत् भुक (Rut Bhuk)(Eat as per season) ,  मित भुक (Meet Bhuk)(Calorie Restricted diet ).

Combination therapy :Nutrition, Biofeedback, Yoga : In addition to biofeedback, following better nutrition , Yoga/Pranayama   gave me much needed relief from colic pains. I concluded any good therapy must use the trinity, Food/nutrition, Yoga/Exercise and biofeedback/nature cure for comprehensive and holistic cure to restore natural health, that is everyone’s right .

Journey towards a positive state of health :  I no longer have any rumbling issues with my digestive system In fact I  have never been sick since a long time   I do not need to take any medications including vitamin supplements I have coped successfully with stress of working in IT industry . I particularly practice the Yoga-Asanas that work on digestive system like Mayurasana Dhanurasana, Bhujangasana, Padma-Mayurasana(See Fig 4 note 1)  Now it seems that modern medicine is ready to accept the holistic truths about our miraculous body. Dr Deepak Chopra, the wellness Guru, is leading us to  unknown realms of life. Deepak Chopra has postulated that gut bacteria listen to and are affected by  our thoughts. Dr Enders , author of book  titled Gut, goes one step more to say that  gut bacteria and brain communicate in a bidirectional way.Gut bacteria  seem to be causing of our moods , emotions, pain and general feeling of well being . There is deep correlation connection between enteric nervous system and the central nervous system. The gut bacteria influence state of brain in many ways.  The old puzzle of rumble in stomach and mental imbalance was solved !

Mayura-asana  figure_4a
Bhujangasana  figure_4c

.

Dhanurasanafigure_4b

 

Padma Mayurasana  figure_4d
Fig 4

 All illnesses including the mental illness, originate in gut   :  As per Ms Giulia Enders , author of book  titled Gut,  the inside story, gut  is in second in importance to the brain in our miraculous body . Gut bacteria along with brain create our sense of “self” The book is a must read for all psychiatrists  or anyone who has an abiding interest in personal health and wellness .After reading the book,  I realized that I was intuitively following many good practices  Reading the book only confirmed many of my intuitive choices . Following is summary of the exerts from the book, Guts, the inside story by Giulia Enders

Vegas nerve is a   direct bidirectional nerve  link  between our  brain and gut . The gut communicates with brain about state of nation by this nerve! (Fig 5) The brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help in shaping the gut’s microbial makeup, Gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters like serotonin  that influence the brain. The gut-brain  interactions occur in various ways: microbial compounds communicate via the vagus nerve, and with the immune system, which maintains its own communication with the brain.(Fig 7A, 7B, 8)  Our gut influences brain in myriad ways.. Much of our health, mental attitude is determined by the microbes in gut including Allergies, intolerances and acid reflux. Seretonin, the happiness hormone makes  us feel sated, feel good mood. More than 95% of serotonin  hormone is manufactured in cells of gut. Most psychiatric drugs affect both brain and gut  in same way.
Fig 5  05_Vagus-txt

  

  1. Stomach’s location is  much higher than where we assume  :When we say stomach, we usually point to  gut, ie the lower portion of abdomen. Our stomach  is actually located  much higher than what we imagine
Fig 6  figure_6
As you can observe from fig.6, stomach begins just below the left nipple and ends below bottom of the rib cage  on the right  Many a times we  say there is pain in stomach, the  problem most likely, be in the lower part ie gut or the intestines(fig 7)
Fig 7  figure_7
Fig 7A  figure_7a
  • Doorkeepers on both ends of stomach: There are doorkeepers(valves) on both ends of stomach. If  the upper valve has issues, we get heart burn due to acid reflux The lower valve gives free passage to water and liquid drinks to gut. Foods like carbohydrates(cakes, pasta, pizza, bread, rice)  are not held for long They quickly go to the gut and raise blood sugar giving sugar spike. Food that contains protein or fats are processed in stomach for longer time. We know from our experience that if we eat only refined carbohydrates (like rice flakes, rice products, bakery products ) we get hungry faster than if we eat same thing with an egg and /or adding  butter or ghee
  1. Biome , the genetic material of gut microbes Biome, genetic material of microbes and our genes is our true social network :  There is a word in Marathi, पिण्ड ( Pind), which means biome, the large super set of our genome along with microbes we inherit this from our ancestors The biome is the  result of eating habits, lifestyle formed over millions of years There is one Sanskrit saying पिण्डे पिण्डे मतिर्भिनः )Pinde pinde matirbhinnah ) means the  typical way of thinking that we inherit (ie mind) is different as per each type of  biome  There is an adage, पिंडी  ते ब्रह्मांडी  – (Pindi te Bramhanadi)  meaning the  biome contains everything that  is there in universe ) This microbiome is altered  by choices of dietary habits, lifestyle. Thus biome is  a much wider term than our genes, for it includes genome of bacteria that have been living us Each one of has a unique micro biome fingerprint. Similarly different communities have certain types of biome.
  2. Microbes outnumber our genome : As per Deepak Chopra, the genetic material of microbes in gut outnumber our genetic material by 120 times . Gut flora (gut microbiota) is a complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals, including insects. While some of our gut bacteria are common among  all people,  each one has own unique gut microbiome like finger print Gut bacteria help us digest certain foods that cannot be  digested in the stomach   Bacteria produce vital vitamins, aid in bone density, building a strong immune system and a healthy nervous system It helps to strengthen our immune system and interacts with many nerve cells and hormone-producing cells in the intestinal system. It aids in the production of certain vitamins such as B , H and K. Having healthy bacteria in our gut is vitally important for proper functioning  of the body. Gut’s microbiome affects weight control, sensitivity to allergies, cholesterol, risk for  diabetes, hormonal issues and cardiovascular health. The bacteria also impact body fat, help maintain good cholesterol levels, mental health as well as ability to cope up stress and fight diseases.
  3. Happiness hormone originates in gut: Specific gut microbes are involved in the production of neurotransmitters–the chemicals your brain and nervous system use to communicate with the rest of your body, but also to regulate mood and behavior The gut nervous system (enteric nervous system) works independently of brain . Seretonin , the hormone known as a mood elevator, is responsible for making us feel sated and pleasant, in good mood. More than 95% of serotonin , the happiness hormone, is manufactured in cell of gut. Serotonin can affect our mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. Unhappy gut can be the cause of an unhappy mind  ! If your gut has better stock of bacteria producing vitamin B12 , you will have better nerves, ability to withstand pressure, stressful situations
Our real social network : Taken together, our gut bacteria have 150 times more genes than a human being. This massive collection of genes is called a biome. Gut microbes may have their own evolutionary reasons for communicating with the brain.. The gut metagenome is the aggregate of all the genomes of gut microbiota. The gut is one niche where more than 99% of  human microbiota inhabit.
Fig 8  8
  1. Microbiome is the root cause of mental state : Disruptions of the microbiome induced anxiety, depression and even autism in mice. In some cases, scientists could restore normal behavior by treating their test subjects with certain strains of benign bacteria. It seems dietary treatments could be used as either adjunct or sole therapy for mood disorders The scientists also found intestinal microbes could influence stress responses in the brain, with possibility of using probiotic treatments to affect brain function in beneficial ways
  2. Forced Swim test on mice reveals that our character influenced by gut bacteria In forced swim test, a mouse is placed in a deep container forcing it to swim. How long will it keep swimming till it finds ground ? This depends upon character of mouse .Mice with depressive tendencies simply freeze , give up too soon. When such timid mice were fed a strain of bacteria, swapped from brave mice. they kept swimming for longer, performed better in memory , fewer stress hormones. Scientists found that disruptions of the microbiome induced behavior like anxiety, depression and even autism. In some cases, scientists could restore normal behavior by treating their test subjects with certain strains of benign bacteria.
  3. Microbiome influences mental illnesses. People who suffer from intestinal problems like IBS(irritable bowel syndrome ) often have co-occurring psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression.
  4. Natural is priceless : Natural delivery, unlike C section, bestows microbes mother’s immune system to the baby Also breast feeding is the best gift infant can get for growing healthy gut bacteria.
  5. Obsessive cleanliness does more harm than good : As per Dr Enders, cleanliness is mostly in head! Fear driven hygiene, obsessive cleaning ( example use of anti bacterial soaps, alcohol based cleaning solutions, bathroom cleaners, etc )  are driven by advertisements on TV, which work on making you “fear” the microbes. Such obsessive cleaning causes allergies and autoimmune disorders Luckily more than 95% of bacteria are harmless to humans Even few bad ones are good when in small numbers Bad bacteria act like vaccination for priming and training our immune system Remember cleanliness is not annihilation ( ie absence)  of all bacteria As per Dr Enders cleanliness is a balance of good bacteria and few bad ones.
  6. Pure , distilled water is not healthy: Distilled water is pure and cleanest However by a counter intuitive logic, drinking such water does not help gut bacteria to make vitamins like B-12. So let’s get over our obsession with bottled water and start drinking water directly from tap!
  7. Saliva , urine are nothing but filtered blood. Saliva and urine are nothing but  filtered blood Hence both saliva and urine retain the  healing, pain killing  and disinfecting  properties of blood. These are great chemicals secreted by body, not toxic products.
The  appendix, (Fig 9) sitting at beginning of large intestine, is made from similar material like tonsils Appendix is not a useless. It  kills bad bacteria and is store house of good , helpful bacteria , which are used to populate large intestine after an attack of diarrhea Appendix, like tonsils, consists almost entirely of immune cell.
Fig 9  figure_9
  1. Visual stool test : My father often used to quote Saint Vinoba Bhave, प्रभाते  मल दर्शनं  Prabhate Mal Darshnam (meaning among first things in morning,   you get to see is your stools  !) As per Dr. Enders, there are seven types of stools, based on appearance, color, etc Stools are one of the daily indicators of state of your inner health . Whenever I was ill, my father used to ask me somewhat embarrassing questions about appearance of my stools. If stools were dried, small stone like in appearance, it pointed to constipation and dehydration, as per him He was right . We in India give high importance to having a good bowel movement every day, joking that entire days’ mood and  happiness depends on this single activity to be done in morning.
  2. What’s good food for developing good gut bacteria? : Gut bacteria love foods that have fiber(both soluble and not soluble ) High fibre food , whole grains, unpolished rice, etc provides roughage for bacteria. This  is also beneficial for us, as it helps body eliminate body toxins along with undigested fiber  Fast food like pizza, burgers and bakery products are not good for developing good gut bacteria Probiotic  food like curds, buttermilk, is good for gut flora.
  3. Blood group development happens due to gut bacteria : Theoretically new born infants have no blood group . Interactions between baby’s gut flora and immune system , as baby grows, results into development of different blood groups. Blood groups can be termed as the expressions of the gut bacteria in circulatory system.
  4. Leaky gut, IBS, and anxiety : The majority of gut bacteria reside in the mucous membrane that lines the gut. They create a permeable blood barrier , preventing  any bad bacteria from entering blood stream. In leaky gut, the mucous membrane becomes thin or has some cracks through which bacteria enter blood stream. This invokes response from body’s immune system At times an overdriven immune system can mistake body’s own cells as foreign bodies. In IBS(irritable bowel syndrome), unpleasant, bloated feeling persists in stomach , coupled with anxiety , depressive disorders. Bad gut flora is said to be causing such symptoms, resulting in lowering of threshold between gut and brain, giving rise to uneasy feelings
  5. An overactive immune system triggers inflammations. The reason for high activism by immune cells may be in unhappy gur bacteria. The increasing incidence of auto immune disorders have origin in mucous membrane that lines guts , with protective layers of gut bacteria. In such cases, due to leakages from the membrane, body’s immune cells cannot differentiate between what is belonging to body’s own cells and an external thing like bacteria in blood stream.
  6. Antidepressant drugs treat both the enteric and other brain: One of side effects of antidepressant medicines is feeling of nausea, diarrhea followed by constipation. This is due to fact that gut brain(enteric brain) has same receptors like brain.  These medicines have side effects on gut bacteria An unhappy gut may be cause of unhappy brain. New treatment possibilities for psychiatric illness could treat gut rather than the brain.
  7. Human brain’s main function is “Not” thinking !  The main function of human brain , as per Dr Enders , is not to think nor to acquire knowledge but to facilitate body movements! Dr Enders gives example of a species of a fish that literally switches off brain after reaching its destination goal! There are human examples like this in our world in academic world, as per Dr Enders!
  8. Alcohol messes up with gut bacteria . Alcoholic drinks harm good gut bacteria and results in breeding bad ones Therefore avoiding alcohol is recommended for developing good gut flora .
  9. Cholesterol is not all bad : Just as too much cholesterol is bad, too little can be worse for body, causing memory problems, depression and aggressive behavior. Fat sheaths nerve fibres, improved memory , makes one intelligent Fat also lubricates the mucous membrane of gut where microbes reside. No wonder, Indian processed milk fat(Ghee)   is termed as the super food by Ayurveda.
  10. Stress is unhygienic Mental stress produces butterflies in stomach, by altering gut atmosphere Stress helps  bad bacteria to survive in gut, giving rise to host of problems like diabetes, IBS, etc
  11. Drinking milk is not a healthy choice for adults : In 75% of worlds’ population, gene for digesting lactose is switched off  by adulthood. In spite of this, it is possible to digest milk in small quantities. Curds is predigested milk  It is an excellent probiotic As microbes have already acted on lactose turning it into lactic acid, it can be easily digested .
  12. What makes us fat? : Gut bacteria have a great role for weight gain. Obese people are found to have less diversity in gut flora. Certain group of bacteria that metabolize carbohydrates prevail. Gut bacteria are responsible for overall metabolism, likely cause not only obesity but hormone imbalances, Vitamin deficiencies  (B12, D) as well.
  13. What makes up our character ?  From experiments on mice , one can say that  the nature of gut bacteria influences character of mice. If human beings too nurture good gut bacteria by practicing better nutrition, lessening  use of  antibiotics, then one can become healthy, stress free.
  1. Squatting is much natural and healthier way for passing stools : Indians of my father’s generation are used to squat while passing stools, like majority of Asians. Now it seems more civilized to have western type of commode People of my father’s generation faced  difficulties, passing stools in a western toilet seat as you have to sit straight . Dr Enders, quoting many experiments concludes that squatting leads to easier and faster evacuation of feaces Squatting lessens chances of developing piles (hemorrhoids) . We dismissed my father for being old fashioned but my father was right ! It has been found that hemorrhoids, constipation  are  móre  common  in countries where people  sit on commode , chair like structure  to pass stools   This is due to  too much pressure being exerted on the end of gut.
Fig 10  figure_10
  • Avoid poultry fed with antibiotics In India, poultry industry uses antibiotics to help poultry gain weight in a short time. Such antibiotics find way into human body and give rise to drug resistance bacteria . It is better to pay more for organic (desi) variety of poultry than broiler one . Also unnecessary use of antibiotics must be avoided as it gives rise to drug resistant bacteria.
  1. Medicines, any illness takes huge toll on gut flora : A medicine is considered ineffective if it does not have side effects ! As per Dr Malati Karvarkar, renowned dietitian and nutritionist, our body loses lot of vitamins, minerals when we take any medicines for illnesses such as common fever, flue, malaria, hypertension, asthma, etc. Patients needs to have special diet to compensate for such loss of nutrients. The side effects of  medicines cause severe nutritional deficiency caused due to  loss of intestinal  flora  Rarely doctors fully brief patients on ways to compensate such loss of intestinal flora through nutrition, probiotic doses  or vitamin pills
  2. Futility of taking a hostile approach to bacteria : Medical science is realizing  futility of taking a hostile approach to germs through antibiotics Medical science seems to have come full circle. Treatments like  FMT(Fecal Microbial Treatment) would have been termed outlandish, just few years ago. (FMT involves transfer of healthy persons’ stools to sick person’s gut by enema or orally by capsule.)  FMT restores gut flora, harmed due to use of antibiotics. Few years ago, such practices would have been dismissed as pseudoscience. As per Dr. Deepak Chopra, the wellness Guru,  boundaries between what is science and pseudoscience are always changing. as we get deeper understanding about inseparability of body and mind. The gut microbiome, can prevent chronic inflammation and associated brain activity. Alternatively, brain problems can potentially be caused by not taking care of the health of your microbiome. As per Yoga, any physical disease first starts in mind (Manomaya kosha) and then manifests in body (Annamay kosha) This theory is now accepted by medical world as cause of most disease is termed as psychosomatic(ie originating in mind, later manifesting in physical body)

Live and Let Live : Symbiotic way of living  with one and all  is the hallmark of mother nature . The father of modern medicine Hippocrates said “All disease begins in the Gut” The cause of all diseases is due to accumulated excretory  matter which later becomes toxic says Ayurveada (सर्वेषामेव रोगणाम निदानम  कुपिता  मलाः )  (sarveshanam Roganam Nidanam kupita malah) meaning the root cause of all diseases is accumulated waste matter Modern medicine  believes in fighting diseases with antibiotics (literally meaning  anti-life) that adversely affect gut flora. Also overuse of antibiotics is giving  rise to multi drug resistant strains of bacteria Intuitively we understand that if we create good conditions in gut , good bacteria will  prevail and if we create bad conditions, bad bacteria will come up . Both good and bad bacteria (ie health and disease) exist simultaneously within us As Gautama Buddha said, we are creating our health or disease destiny through intuitive or informed choices, we are making each moment. Patanjali Yoga Sutra says, हेंयम दुखः  अनुगतं (Heyam Dukhanugatam ) means that One can avoid coming grief , diseases by taking proactive measures) .

To fix my delicate gut, I learned Mudra Pranayama, Yoga, gave up alcohol, improved nutrition, avoided  wrong food choices; I started practicing biofeedback nature cure since youth.  Existence showed me that it is possible to repair, restore gut. Thanks to all this today I am in better health than in my youth !  My quest  to fix my gut led me to holy grail of  wellness , beyond factory manufactured allopathy  medicines, vitamin pills and supplements. Now my gut is  gloriously fixed and  I am reaping benefits of good health, as described by this Sanskrit shloka that defines good health.

सम दोषा  सम  आग्निश्च  सम धातु  मला क्रिया ,प्रसन्न   आत्मेन  मनाः  इंद्रीय  स्वस्थ  इति भि  धियाते 

sama dosha sama agnishcha samadhatu mala kriyaaha,|Prasanna atma mana indriyaha swastha iti abhidheeyate ||Adequate digestive fire (acid) , the three dosha,(Vaat, Pitta and Kapha)  and  the seven elements in your body namely Ras(chyme), Rakta(blood), Mansa(Muscle), Meda(Fat), Asthi(Bones), Majja(Nerve fibres), Shukra(reproductive semen/egg) are  in orderly balance, You have also good ablutions /excretion, All sensory organs, including  mind , soul are in a happy state

I have made peace with all bacteria in my gut I know that if I create better conditions , the good bacteria will thrive and protect me without over reacting through overreaching  immune system  By giving me delicate tummy in my early youth,  existence did me great favor, as I ended up knowing Yoga, Pranayama and nature cure techniques ! Spiritual folks with delicate tummy,  are indeed blessed ones for they explore hidden truths and unknown areas of conscientiousness
सर्वे सुखिनः संतू , सर्वे संतू निरामयाः सर्वे भद्रानी पश्यन्तु ,माँ निश्चित दुःखं य्याप नु यात
(sarve sukhinah santu,sarve santu niramaya,sarve bhadrani pashyantu,ma nishchit dukham vyap nu yat)
Let everyone be happy and healthy Let everyone make good choices. Let no one undergo painful consequences of wrong choices

I want to end with  a prayer from Upanishad for everyone’s health which is  birth right, granted to us by mother nature , if we understand and follow laws  of natural world.

, Let all be happy,

Notes. 1.  Women are advised against practicing certain Asanas like MayurAsana, Padma Mayurasana which put undue pressure on uterus

  1. Excerpted with permission from Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Under-Rated Organ by Giulia Enders, Speaking Tiger.

Pankaj Narayan Pandit, Head-Airlines Practice, Sonata Software LtdPankaj Narayan Pandit ,is founder,trustee of SLK Foundation , a charitable trust  for nature friendly  wellness solutions www.slkfoundation.in email slkfoundation.in@gmail.com

Top Ten Myths on Weight-loss

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 Ten Myths on Weight Loss

Epidemic of obesity : As per WHO, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since  1980. Today 39% of adults are overweight, defined as having  BMI more than 25*. Wealthy countries like USA  have more than 1/3rd adults in Obese category , defined as BMI more than 30. See chart below Please refer to chart at end of article to find out your BMIObesity rates in OECD countries

Higher BMI is the cause of many a life style diseases like cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and even some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon). Equally  worse  are the “quick fix solutions” ,marketed by the weight loss industry which promise effortless weight loss, . Understanding the ten myths on weight loss will help in embarking on journey for a healthy weight loss , without causing long term damages.

Myth 1. That the weight loss goals must be achieved in a short time.

A. Usually weight gain would have happened gradually , steadily over 10-20-25 years period since adolescence

Gradual process of weight gain

    1. Logically weight reduction should be also gradual Losing 1 to 2 kg per month is a realistic healthy goal , by  right combination of “exercises”, “sensible eating ” and making other life style changes, that have contributed to the weight gain.
    2. Pick up physical activities that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling, running, swimming , dancing, or a sports  in your journey towards healthy living !
    3. Sudden weight loss, is like crash landing a heavy aircraft , with repercussions on your long term health!

Myth 2. That “Doing exercises” is futile option for achieving weight loss.

  1. It is true that doing exercises does not reduce weight as quickly as strict dieting.
  2. An ideal exercise plan will  have three dimensions; 3S-Strength/Stamina/Stretching
    1. Strengthening of muscles/bones  (For example  weight training, using body as weight for traditional exercises )
    2. Endurance Stamina for heart/lungs (For example activities like sports, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc)
    3.  Stretching for well toned body(For example Yoga, aerobics, dancing) etc
  3.   A well planned , regularly executed exercise plan  will strengthen body’s  frame, internal organs Regular exercises that combine the trinity will raise BMR(Basal Metabolic Rate), slowly bringing down weight without causing harm
  4. Harsh dieting can result in undesirable side effects like mood swings, feeling of depression On the other hand, aerobic exercises has desirable side effects,uplifting of mood,  “Feel Good”due to release of pheromones.
  5. exercise-in-futility
  6. Even though weight loss cannot be achieved due exercise alone,  the body would have started to slowly shed  fat and begun to  strengthen muscles, bones This results in raising BMR (Basal Metabolic rate ) , the rate at which body consumes calories .Stronger muscles in legs, hands, back, stomach, as result of exercise, will successfully raise BMR if you persist with exercise routine, spending more than 2.5 hours per week

'I'm on this 3 month diet...it only lasts a week, but it feels like 3 months.'

Myth 3. Strict dieting ( for example severe fasting, skipping one/two meals, or skipping breakfast) is necessary to reduce weight in short time

  1. Strict dieting does result in quick weight loss but then a bout of flue can also do that with similar after effects. ie weak body. Such weight lost,  most likely will gained,  as quickly as you give up the diet.
  2. Reducing weight in an unhealthy way is not desirable, if loss of weight comes at expense of muscle mass . Loss of skeletal muscles, will pose serious health issues in future.
  3. Dieting generally means denial of food even when you are hungry. Such repeated denials can have adverse effects on your mood, ability to perform normal work , mental alertness and ability to sleep normally.
  4. Eat sensible , eat right, to ensure you get all nutrition, preferably in their natural form, along with fiber, and adequate sun light.
  5. Avoid calorie intense” foods( like fried, oily snacks, sweets made from milk fat, alcohol).Avoid foods with high GI (glycemic index) values , like sugary drinks, those made from refined carbs, choosing lazy carbohydrates, that have roughage , fiber .
  6. Avoid severe fasting that can lead to a weak lever, mood swings, depression, weak bones and susceptibility to  more infections. Strict dieting cannot be practically continued over a long time.
  7. Eat with awareness ; Take time to eat, Choose food with high fiber , chewing for longer ; All this will limit  intake of calories in food.

'Well, if you're enjoying your diet plan you must be doing it wrong.'

Myth 4 You can shed fat selectively from certain body parts (like waist, stomach, biceps, thighs)  by wearing tight belts or by doing special exercises.

  1. Remember that the main organ by which body reduces  weight is through lungs/skin ; when heart  pumps blood at faster rate, lungs take in more oxygen and breath out more Carbon Di Oxide (CO2), along with loss of water from skin as perspiration. More than 80 per cent of body fat is breathed out of  the body through exhaling, making the lungs,the primary organ through which we lose weight, through oxidation.
  2. There are several types of fats in body like Abdominal fat, Visceral fat, subcutaneous fat, brown fat, and white fat . Body has its own logical order for burning  fats from various body parts.
  3. Like accounting method LIFO(Last in, first out) , the stored fat will be first taken from liver, blood, and then from other parts of body. It is likely that fat from face, may be shed first and the  fat from abdomen, waist and  hips  may be the last one  to be shed.
  4. Focus more on exercises for bigger muscles like  legs (for example  kick boxing, outdoor cycling, running, fast walking , climbing up stairs) for faster results

Myth 5 Diet fads (like Vegan, Vegetarian only, No oil, No eggs, No meat or No poultry, Salads only, Atkin’s diet, Having smoothies for breakfast, having only two meals in a day , etc) can achieve  weight loss

  1. Obsessive diet fads cannot last long as they are difficult to maintain in normal life. As soon as diet plan is given up, body will regain lost weight, making entire exercise futile.
  2. Human body needs over forty ingredients every day (ten amino acids derived from proteins, fifteen vitamins, fourteen minerals, Carbohydrates and EFA ie Essential Fatty Acids) There is interplay between these ingredients like in an musical orchestra, so that   food is assimilated into body. Having only one ingredient in excess, or denial of few essential ingredients does not satisfy body’s complex nutritional needs, resulting in malnutrition.
  3. Your body, gut microbes, are  accustomed to your dietary habits acquired from your ancestors  over generations . We need diverse ingredients  of food for getting proper nutrition. Sudden changes in diet is like a shock to body.
  4. Vegetarian diet lacks certain vitamins (like B12) and is usually deficient in complete proteins, iron as well. Increasing protein intake seems difficult in a vegetarian diet. Vegan diets severely impact Calcium(Ca) needs of body as dairy products are the best source for getting calcium.
  5. Say no to any extreme diet fads to achieve weight loss. Eat sensible instead.

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Myth 6 Weight loss clinics, massage,Sauna, steam bath help in reducing weight.

  1. The weight loss achieved by weight loss clinics that massage or use steam/sauna baths is purely due to loss of water, causing dehydration.
  2. Weight loss due to loss of water from body is deceptive. Body will quickly gain weight as loss of water is compensated
  3. It is important that weight loss should be accompanied with loss of % fat in body.
  4. If weight loss happens as a result of loss of muscle mass, then it is hazardous for your long term health.

Myth 7 Doing only Yoga, only Pranayamas, Kapal Bhati like heavy breathing can result in weight loss

  1. Doing Pranayama is not possible without strong lungs, heart. Pranayama is recommended  only after  strengthening body with physical Yoga Asanas.
  2. Traditional HathYoga addresses  mainly “Stretching” part, unless more intense Yogic practices are consciously adopted For example, quicker and more number of rounds of Surya Namaskars, using body weight for dips.
  3. The 3S exercise trinity, Strength, Stamina and Stretching should never be forgotten.
  4. On a positive side, practicing Hatha Yoga will  bring down weight very slowly. Yoga particularly Pranayama  will also restore balance of mind , improve quality of sleep,  reduce cravings, thus addressing the root cause, psychological cause of weight gain.

Myth 8 Taking pills/powders/juices that suppress hunger and  replacing normal food with supplements herb like /herbal powders/protein shakes /vitamin pills /smoothies in artificial form can provide all necessary nutrition, for achieving weight loss quickly.

  1. Body absorbs nutrients along with food fibre/roughage thru food’s journey in small intestine in a gradual way
  2. Sans fiber, the vitamin/protein pills, or herbal (like)powders will not be properly assimilated and most likely to be excreted by body.
  3. Food supplements, vitamin pills  can only  compliment a good diet plan ; these supplements can not be considered a substitute for normal foodfed32606468a73d44f93f5459b3cee94-quick-weight-loss-healthy-weight-loss

Myth 9 You must join a Gym if you want to reduce weight

 

'How effective is this new weight-loss regime?' 'We can guarantee you'll lose £50 at your signing on.'

  1. Body is an intelligent machine, which quickly discovers the  most efficient way to burn calories, conserving its  energy , while doing repetitive motions on Gym equipment  like on Cardio, or cross trainer or other machines
  2. In addition, gym users get bored while doing monotonous activities indoor in a gym
  3. It is also observed that over training with Gym machines often leads to injuries like muscle tear, muscle pull, stress fractures, and cramps , etc  due to over strain in one particular part of body.
  4. Find a exercise buddy or group with whom you can engage in outdoor activities regularly .If weather permits, then choose outdoor exercises( like running, cycling)such “Outdoors Gym” is fun activity for the mind as well . Playing competitive sport an enjoyable way to achieve weight loss.

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Myth 10 MBBS doctors are the best guides for seeking advice on diet and nutrition,

  1. If you want good advice on diet, nutrition, please consult a Ph. D (dietician/nutritionist )  instead of a MBBS /allopathic doctor.
  2. MBBS doctors have little or no formal education on healthy diet and nutritional needs of body.

Pankaj Narayan Pandit, Head-Airlines Practice, Sonata Software Ltd

Pankaj Narayan Pandit is founder,trustee of SLK Foundation , a charitable trust  for nature friendly  wellness solutions www.slkfoundation.in  email slkfoundation.in@gmail.com

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Khudkushah, my fully edible pet rooster

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Road side poultry shop; Factory for killing birds : There is a poultry shop cum abattoir, right across the road, opposite my rowhouse in Kharghar. The abattoir , a shack, set up on temporary shed,  is an unauthorized structure .The road side shop on average kills over two hundreds chicken per week. The demand for chicken meat waxes and wanes during weekdays. For example, so called “holy” days of week, as per commonly held Hindu beliefs, are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday , Friday, On these “holy” weekdays, fewer chickens get killed . On other days, especially Sunday, the demand for chicken meat soars. In India people eat meat(chicken or goat) , prefer to eat fresh meat of  animals killed before them.  The tropical heat adversely affects quality of meat. Hence eating meat from a “freshly killed” animal is  more sensible.The butchers are mostly from the Muslim community. Our Muslim butcher, named as Mullah, is a philosopher He talks about great spiritual truths, as he nonchalantly slits the chickens’ throat, as per halal ritual,  with a sharp knife , to drop them into a death well !

Halal ritual for killing : The bird to be killed is picked up at random from a cage full of chirping birds. The selected bird is held high by its feathers, quickly weighed on a kitchen scale, the weight is noted. If the weight meets the requirement of client,  then the bird is immediately killed Notice that only the weight matters, for the consumer, not the health or state of the bird! As per the halal ritual, the bird is first fed few drops of water. Just as the thirsty bird happily gulps the water, its throat is slit with a sharp knife . The  bird then is dropped into a three feet deep plastic drum, a literal death well . Here the bird simply bleeds to death, while it flutters its wings violently, in a vain bid  to escape. The more briskly it flutters its wings, the higher it can jump but not beyond the rim of drum. The birds make a muted drum beat like sounds while hitting the wall of the plastic drum. Initially the beats  have a  high volume.The sound slowly “dies down” as the animal breaths its last.The bird literally fights for life till the last drop of blood is sucked out of the body. Death comes as the bird simply runs out of blood. With heart still beating, the carcass of bird is de skinned on a log of wood,. Feathers are removed, legs are chopped off. The meat is cut into small pieces , packed in black plastic polyethylene bags for delivery to customers. In the night, the blood in drum is emptied along with offal in near by dust bin. Here it is gorged by a waiting pack of stray dogs and crows. Stray dogs and crows are always circling the poultry shop for their daily feed.
Survival against all odds : Few of my “pious” neighbors, among them staunch vegetarians, raise objection to such open slaughter Even the meat eaters abhor  presence of such a “dirty” shop across their house. They complain to civic authorities to remove the poultry shop. Time and again, civic authorities, remove the make shift shanty poultry shop, confiscating the iron cages, along with stock of poultry. The tenacious owner, Mulla takes such setbacks philosophically with no complaints. The makeshift shop duly springs up again very next day with the temporary bamboo shed covered with blue tarpaulin cover.

Colorful desi chicken :The desi or indigenous(also called as gavthi) breed of poultry sells at a premium. The “organic” “desi” poultry sells at Rs 800 per kg, while the broiler variety of chicken that is poultry farmed, sells at 50% discount over this price. Unlike the broiler poultry chicken, which are hardly two months old, the desi ones are older lot. In India, the poultry farmed chicks are fed with antibiotics that helps them to gain quicker weight. India has no regulation on the antibiotics given to the broiler chicken. As birds are sold purely on weight, higher weight achieved in quicker time,  helps the trade make quick profits and no one complains !
I adopt a desi rooster : The male roosters of Indian poultry Birds  birds ,particularly are very pretty, colorful with royal red crown, bright shining feathers. Every Sunday the butcher gets fresh supplies of desi chicken sourced from interior villages of India . These  colorful roosters with their deep red crown look so attractive in cages. Unfortunately most of them are destined to perish in a single Sunday. From my house across, every day  I used to hear their death drum beats; dance of death . My heart lamented early premature death of such beautiful royal birds.One fine day, I decided to adopt a colorful male bird.The butcher selected a healthy looking male rooster that had just arrived for me. I paid Rs 1600 @Rs 800 per kg I adopted him as a pet. We made night shelter with iron grill for the rooster The next morning as I released from night shelter, the rooster heard calls from his brethren just across the road. It promptly responded to their call , crossing the road to bond with its fraternity! I was amused that the rooster I adopted to rescue it from the butcher was not happy ! It wanted to rejoin the very school, where most of the classmates would not live to see the next day! For exhibiting such suicidal tendencies,our rooster was named as “Khudkushah” (meaning suicidal) !New Picture (15)
Khudkushah could soon recognize people.I used to catch him, for petting at soft portion just below sharp beak.

 

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He was cuddly,soft like a teddy bear. Roosters  have a fleshy throat just below the beak, where they have velvety red muscle. Khudkushah could recognize  my call from a distance and would immediately respond by making typical croaking sounds. He would promptly return to safety of cage at dusk.

One of his noon time pass would be to engage into ferocious fight(?) with his own mirror image ! He would imagine there is a male adversary trespassing in his territory, feathers on tail would rise He would tear his claws into the glass, attacking repeatedly  the image on glass door ! We had to pick him up to separate from such  illusive adversary ! I believe elephants are the among the only few animals who  differentiate  the mirror  image as their own reflection.

What’s life without a mate? We decided to acquire a mate for Khudkushah , to give him a reason to live and to curb his suicidal tendencies!  Through an arranged marriage, a black desi hen, was purchased @ 800 per KG from Mulla’s slaughter house. She was named as Khushi (a packet of delight!)
Unique way of induction : Khudkushah did not quite welcome the new arrival. May be he  did not want to share his space with anyone He showed aggression and anger. He stopping just short of attacking her. He circled around  her, dancing , posturing. After such show of  intimidation, he quickly mounted on her , for a successful coitus . After stamping the hen with his sperm mark,  peace was established in the household.  The hen now became part of his harem ! Is this a  rooster way of inducting a new team member from opposite sex into clan?  We knew that we cannot think of adding another male member, as male roosters are territorial like many species.New Picture (16)
Khushi gets ambushed One fine day, Khushi the packet of the delight of our rooster was snatched away in an  ambush, by pack of stray dogs.In the morning I released both chicken from their nightly abode. Then I went on terrace where I heard lot of strange war calls from below.  Khudkushah was desperately raising alarm for danger. I rushed down the four storeyed  staircase to find that a pack of four stray dogs had ambushed into our compound . They were five stray dogs, in the compound who had surrounded pair of chicks.  Khudkushah was fighting the pack of stray dogs like a true warrior. He used his wings to fly on near by tree branch. From there, he attacked the dogs. However he was no match as he was outnumbered. The stray dogs had planned the game days in advance. Khudkushah could not save his beloved mate from this ambush. Her neck was badly twisted by the dogs. The dogs ran away with her. I chased them away pelting stones .The dogs were forced to drop their prized catch.I brought back the dead carcass back to our compound. Khudkushah grieved and wailed , making circles around Khushi’s  dead body. That roosters grieve over their dead, may be a new discovery ! He was under inconsolable grief. In a very human-like gesture Khudkushah circled around the hens carcass ,trying to revive her. With lot of efforts, I recovered the carcass from his possession. Khudkushah was not his normal self for one whole day!  As body was removed, he went about usual business,but in a melancholy way.New Picture (17)
I did not wish to waste the desi chicken (Even Gautama Buddha had no qualms eating animals already killed!)  I went back to Mullah, the butcher, across the road I requested him to clean up the carcass, by removing feathers, non edible parts like stomach,etc from dead hen. Strangely the man who must have killed thousands of chicken in his life, expressed inability to do this “ Sorry, I cannot do touch haram meat. Muslims can touch only the animals killed by Halal,! As the dogs had killed the chicken by twisting neck , this meat is not Halal but Haram! I cannot do anything to this now”. I requested another person, Reena, a Muslim lady from West Bengal to take the chicken for feast . She too refused the eat meat for religious reasons as the meat was not Halal !
As a immediate remedy, I started looking for a replacement for Khushi to fill vacuum in Khudkusha’s life We got a black hen, named as Kalee . Khudkushah’s second wife, Kalee  had an attitude! She did not quite lend herself to Khudkushah’s amorous desires as a mate. She kept him constantly “wanting”, and thus became his favorite queen! We soon added two more hens. Variety is after all is the spice of life! A red one, who was very timid and a black one, (named as Kalee, the second) who was a bit disoriented one.

Pecking hierarchy : Khudkushah  with his three hens, was living a kings’ life.  The night shelter had two compartments. Khudkushah stayed in one one of them with his favorite queen, Kalee, (with attitude!) while other two hens were in other compartment. Any newcomer was shown their place, by a peck on their neck, in case they started eating grains in a hurry. Khudkushah used to  be very anxious to get out of his cage in morning. He would rush out for doing ablutions outside. All of them, intuitively knew that dirtying the cage with feces is not good for their health. They used to  hold their major excretions till they were outside the cage.

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Soon we started getting on an average two to three desi eggs per day as dividend ! The hens deliver eggs in solitude , not wanting Khudkushah around at this time. As anxious husband doting on his hens, he did not want to leave them alone! Like a loving husband who waits  for his wife to deliver, he would wait nearby , making sounds to show his anxiety So he had to be forcibly separated at this time from the enclosure . Their small sized egg, had yokes with  deep golden yellow color. After a few months, we decided to let the hens hatch a few eggs. Kalee(the second) turned out be a perfect mother, who patiently hatched the eggs. Soon we had a pack of six chicks, who followed their mother, Kalee(the second) all through day The pack , with Khudkushah in lead, would stroll around the neighborhood looking for insects.  The entourage at times would troop around in our lobby and play on our sofas, to amusement of our guests . Khudkushah as a patriarch looked after his clan. He would raise alerts if he found any pack of dogs approaching. He was gracious as he voluntarily give up eating his share of grains for his favorite hens.  When his harem of hens fought or displayed bitchiness, he would restore  peace !  So did Khudkushah live happily, ever after , with his harem and a growing family ? No. Not for long !

End of tale : On one fateful day, Khudkushah went across the  road to challenge one male rooster. He fought with him. And in return he came back infected with a viral disease. Soon it spread to most of his family. One by one, all of them perished, except a single hen,Kalee(the second) with three chicks , who were separated early from the rest. With a heavy heart, I saw how my pets faced death. It happened too fast for me to think of a solution The black hen, Kalee(second)rose to the responsibility of taking care of young chicks. Crows are always looking to young chicks for easy pickings. She would fight with approaching crows to guard the young chicks . The young chicks do not have an inborn  instinctive traffic sense for crossing road. Like adult dogs, adult chicken too learn to cross road safely. One day, while crossing road, our black hen stood bravely between a speeding car and her flock of  chicks. She was promptly knocked down, though the chicks were saved . Now the three chicks were left as orphans. Soon the chicks were picked up,  one by one,by the waiting crows. Thus ended Khudkusha’s clan and his legacy. My short experiment of adopting a fully edible pet,ended rather prematurely !

Now I know what a farmer goes through to raise a chicken egg The fragile organic egg goes through many hurdles, challenges  before reaching  to my doorstep without any breakage ! Its value is certainly more than Rs 10 that we pay . Can urbanites who are pure consumers turn into pro-sumers? Pro-sumer means a consumer who also produces something , rather than pure consumption. Turning prosumers  will make us “value” our food much more than a simple  monetary transaction.

All animals responds positively to our love. Animals do have human like qualities, frailties and individuality as well.  Look into their eyes and you can fathom their emotions, perceive  the soul.We don’t  have  to reserve our love for only so called “pet” animals, like dogs, cats.  Even the so called “edible”/”ordinary” animals can be lovingly reared as pet animals !

My next plans are to adopt a lamb, learning from this short experiment! After all one must be progressive and ambitious in life !!!

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figure_12Pankaj Narayan Pandit  can be contacted on panditpank@gmail.com