Posts Tagged ‘india’

The bloody remains of the previous coffee meeting (When political systems met for coffee) were a long-forgotten memory. After ages, another meeting came to be arranged in the secret underground facility. Keen watchers noticed Indian languages making their way into a meeting of Languages. No one knew who sent out the invites. Nervous excitement wafted through the air.

The Dravidian heavyweight Tamil was among the first to walk in proudly; feet barely on the ground, head pointing to the heavens. Observing no one around and a tad cross at turning up early, quite against popular Indian custom, Tamil found a perch at the biggest chair around the table. Presumably this was the Head Chair. A while passed and fellow Dravidian species Kannada and Telugu made an appearance. Upon entry, though, these languages grappled with immediate disenchantment. For the chairs were left unmarked and Tamil sat rather smugly at the best available chair.

None of the languages was in the mood for free seating. The new entrants reminded Tamil that it ought to vacate the Head Chair. Tamil appeared unruffled and reminded the group that it was indeed the right claimant. This right was automatically its due, thanks to its status as the first Indian language to be bestowed Classical status. Tamil also invoked the Indian devotion for seniority. As one of the oldest Indian languages, it expected, subtly of course, a level of respect from the others. When none was forthcoming, it remonstrated about the devolving state of affairs, hurling choice expletives in its own tongue. Kannada and Telugu brimmed, due to lack of appreciation of the words Tamil used. Each was mighty proud about their histories. Warfare of the linguistic kinds was imminent.

Tamil’s outburst, quite unforeseen, was to be met head on. The abrupt assault on their rich histories caused Kannada and Telugu to grieve over personal slander. Each began waxing eloquent about its linguistic beauty. Each language was unique, and in this respect all were the same. Tamil alleged blasphemy and accused Kannada and Telugu of forsaking filial piety. Telugu, meanwhile, opted for musical warfare, unleashing its vast musical lexicon on the group. A more inappropriate presentation of an asset could not be contemplated. Or so everyone thought.

As the battle gained steam, another language made a belated appearance. Malayalam. This language was conferred Classical status recently and was kicked at being part of an elite group. It did not, however, receive the ovation that it expected. It grappled with further strife on realising its neighbours in Dravidian-ville were well and truly established in their perches. It breathed a sigh of relief nonetheless. Unaware of protocol, out rumbled a stream of words that sounded so menacing that there was sudden outburst of silence. Malayalam twirled its moustache.

The joy was to be shortlived. For the silence was due to another reason.

A magnificient referee had appeared out of nowhere. Sanskrit.

Admiration gripped the warring group. Here was the lingua franca of them all. The fountainhead. The creator, of which these languages were offshoots. Or so Sanskrit  sermoned. There was immediate infighting for the Head Chair, pitting Sanskrit and Tamil at loggerheads. Tamil refused to budge, citing that it had gone Classical before Sanskrit, even as the latter attempted to skirt the issue.

Amid growing cacophony, the group greeted a new arrival. Oriya. This beautiful language spoke with its wondrous twang and informed others of its imminent induction into the Classical Club. The application was made and entry could happen anytime, so it came to the meeting preemptively. The others muttered under their breath. As they readied to parry Oriya’s intrusion, they were caught off guard by a sudden influx of a bevy of other Indian languages into the meeting. All claimed a place in the Classical Club. Soon, the room was populated by over 100 Indian languages, all aspirants to the Classical Club.

Opprobrium spread infectiously among the languages. Verbal exchanges of the unkind kind, in tongues that weren’t comprehensible to the others, began to fly hither and thither. Many lamented the uncultured outrage of the languages of culture.

The supposedly elite club wasn’t so elite anymore. This caused some to reconsider their objective for fighting. They realised they were clinging on to thin air. Someone reminded Tamil of a quote (in Tamil), “Cling to the One who clings to nothing; and so clinging, cease to cling.”

They looked around and realised all of them were clinging on to a title that added nothing to their personalities. The emptiness hit them hard. Sense descended upon the group. They dispersed, with a good word for the others.

In tongues that weren’t comprehensible to them.

On The Evolution & Futility of Eating

By assigning appropriate weights to preconceived biases and no objectivity, one would be drawn to posit that the act of living out a life is an activity high on wastefulness. Being alive is a tough chore.

The aboriginal human found much nourishment in the rawness afforded by Nature. Climb a tree, pluck and devour fruits whose names early Adam did not know (or care about), or dive into friendly waters for a wondrous menu of exotic aquatica, or, if he had the motivation, to hunt for slippery quadrupeds. Everyone was entertained and lived happily; though some died in the process.

But all good things come to an end.

Nobody knows why we are here but being here, we enthusiastically look forward to indulging in belly enhancement. As mankind progressed, we experienced a bewildering desire to attain a level of culture in our eating habits. Few paused to ruminate, pun unintended, that after a very brief interlude spent flirting with the insides of the mouth, food’s journey through the gullet was swift, and once it landed in the stomach, the drama was over. Food entered the mouth in one form, journeyed in another and reached the stomach in a completely unrecognisable form. During meal times, we periodically indulge in the above activity, not once but several times over. Repeating the same set of movements.

Then, some more changes happened.

Multi-century growth in paper wealth and technological advancements led to a situation where we now produce more food than we eat more than we need. In this indecent show of gluttony are a great number of humans that go hungry.

Death is a given but we derive much thrill from delaying the process. Eating is a global bane.

Included in the assorted obnoxious wastes that are expelled naturally, in the process of eating, food wastage is a particularly unwanted consequence. Contributory factors behind this wastage can be traced to the development of another fad. Marriages.

The Futility of Marital Union

Much as death is the norm, life the exception, marriage is an exception to Nature’s evolutionary norm of polyamory. By inwasteing in medical research, we have succeeded in prolonging the exception of life. And by a jingoistic obsession with marital bondage, we have tried to achieve something similar in another arena.

Nature eventually prevails, as the chart below, capturing Marriage and Divorce trends in UK, seems to indicate.

Monetary benefits and convenience aside, there is no compelling reason for humans to indulge in the blissful ignorance of marital bliss. Through evolution, Companionship and Pleasures never knew about the existence of the M-word, which remains an entertaining man-concocted attempt at altering the course of Nature.

Radical Proposal: How To Reduce Food Wastage, By Banning Marriages

Policy actions that reverse these unwelcome trends should be welcomed and given a fair run. Much good can be achieved by addressing both these ills, ideally through a single policy.

One such radical proposal follows.

India is a good geography to begin with, for multiple reasons. In a wondrous irony, India has the second largest stockpile of food in the world yet has a quarter of its populace going to bed hungry and is home to over 40% of the world’s undernourished children. In addition to these, it is also one of the geographies best known for Big-Fat Weddings, where ostentatiousness is directly proportional to one’s apparent ‘arrival’ in society. Multi-thousand guest lists are common and understated vulgarity is scoffed at.

Some fun with numbers, to get a handle of the size of the problem. According to the Food Ministry, 100,000 weddings and social galas happen daily. Assuming a bare minimum of 50 guests are invited to the food fiesta, that’s a princely 5 million belly enhancers at work. Daily. Further assuming that the average meal weighs 500 gram, that’s 2.5 million kilogram of food. About 20% is wasted (an underestimate, most probably), so this translates into a conservative guesstimate of half a million kilogram of food wasted. Daily.

Some value guesstimates. At $5 per plate (conservative), $25 million is directed towards this display, daily. At 20% wastage run-rate, $5 million goes down the drain, quite literally, every day. ~$2 billion per year in wastage. Spread over a decade, this would dwarf Cyprus’ economy.

The distribution of food wastage is most likely skewed towards certain geographies, thanks to such ancillary activities of entertainment. Banning marriages might likely stem this rot, on needless wastage of precious food and needless wastage of (essentially worthless) money.

This would, additionally, also set right our aberrational tampering of Nature’s basic diktats of polyamory.

Successful application, overcoming intense resistance, could then encourage extensions to other geographies. Gradually, the entire globe would be covered under this policy, which shall fall under the aegis of a pan-global body, intended at rectifying Man’s blasphemy of Nature.

The body might be named, somewhat tongue-in-cheek as; Humans for humans, against Natures Laws. Which is true enough to convince unsuspecting humans to take the bait.

The inherent limitations and one-leggedness of this radical proposal is not lost on yours truly. But then, were one to ponder, most plans that humans have instituted throughout history for supposed community benefit have never really worked well for everyone and have broken down, at various points.

Going bust is the norm. One hopes this humble proposal shall be added to the long list of futile experiments attempted by Man.

No one died trying.

Walking is a supposedly mundane activity, generally made interesting by a hip music player bellowing music into the ears of the walker (the hip is quite essential). I’m patriotic about my voice, so my throat usually replaces the music player during walks. This not only spares my ears from imprisonment by earphones, it also allows my eyes and ears to work as a team in appreciating the wonders of daily life.

One such activity that I have been carrying out over time concerns pigeons. Years of observation has led me to posit that pigeons are an attractively stupid lot, irrespective of country of origin. Some of their behavioural characteristics are remarkably similar to human beings, which make us (un)attractively stupid, too. But we won’t get there.

The observations began in Threadneedle Street, London. Apart from sporadic threats by its resident ghost, Threadneedle Street is a wonderful place to relax with a triple macchiato in tow. The ghost loved it, humans loved it and so did pigeons. The pigeons loved the place so much that they would turn out in large numbers, gracing the area with their shitty presence.

A soul, human, was noble enough to arrange for food supply for the hungry pigeons, every day. The food was spread around the place and randomness ensured that food density in some places was higher than neighbouring areas.

A group of pigeons would swoop by daily. The leader would scan the place with satisfaction and then proceed to an area rich in food. The followers would oblige. Soon there’d be about 15 – 20 pigeon-folk, stooped down pecking in the same area, catering to their bellies. Needless to add, food supply would diminish quickly. It so happened that there was a smart alec in the pack. Before the food was completely devoured, this chap would scan nearby locations for food. The simple mechanics of supply and demand rewarded his brilliance abundantly. Off he would go to uninhabited areas and enjoy his meal, alone.

Other members of the herd would continue in Place #1 until food was exhausted, would look around incredulously, then scoot away.

After a few days, some members noticed smart alec’s behaviour. Noticing that he continued to forage enthusiastically even as they chose flight, they decided it was probably worthwhile to follow him. After finishing off at Place #1, they would proceed to Place #2. This pattern was firmly established over time. What began as a trickle eventually led to the entire pack following smart alec, until the new place was conquered.

Smart alec was now at a loss. He observed that his contrarian behaviour paid-off handsomely, initially. When the crowd followed, his edge diminished and beyond a point, was extinct. In order to recreate the edge, he decided to make a pre-emptive move.

This is where stupidity overpowered him.

He moved back to Place #1, which had very little food supply! Silliness writ large on his otherwise smart face, he noticed the lack of food and then enacted Act 2 in stupidity. He rejoined the herd in Place #2 rather than looking at the vast arena, which lay unexplored. Having done all the hard work, smart alec ignored the wonderful lessons that experience had taught him. Forsaking a method that worked well and adopting one that guaranteed failure expunged his edge completely.

I learned later that pigeons do not suffer from short-term memory loss and are capable of remembering patterns of events in their recent environment. In which case, their behaviour corroborated my stupidity hypothesis.

Pigeons in other parts of England exhibited similar manners, which led me to hypothesize that probably pigeons, specifically in the Queen’s Land, were of a mental bent inclined towards foolishness. Empirical evidence from India negated this.

Besides, Indian pigeons adopted a cavalier attitude towards other bird species. They were particularly severe on sparrows and birds of smaller size. When larger birds competed for food, pigeons dejectedly made way. The same behaviour is observable, crudely first in school bullies and then polished to perfection in the world of business.

I tried testing if pigeons exhibited smarts in nest-construction. Twigs, which are the basic building blocks, are universally accepted material. When plant stems that resembled twigs were carefully placed in the path frequented by pigeons, the birds were smart enough to ignore them. It appeared that I would have to reconsider my stupidity hypothesis.

To carry the experiment a step further, I painted the green stems with a coat of brown so they resembled the dry, stiff twigs’ natural colour. This duped the pigeon, which carried the ‘twigs’ away. What happened to the nest is best left to speculation.

This leaves two possibilities. (1) My experimental methods need to get smarter, when I was being stupid in application, it would be erroneous to assign foolishness to the poor pigeons, or, (2) Pigeons are indeed rather stupid, colour-blind or both.

Before postmen, email and social networking put them out of business, doves discharged their mail-delivering responsibilities well. This punctures the hypothesis.

The onus is now on the pigeons to transfer the title of stupidity to my head, but only through diligent observation and carefully constructed experiments aimed at testing idiocy.

 

 Source: Wikipedia

Numbers are sometimes useful in clearing a cynic’s attic. Here goes. A quick comparison of UK and India:

Entry car price / average graduate starting salaries: UK = 35-40%. India = 75-80%.

Petrol prices are about equal, so are personal income tax rates, so are real-estate rentals/capital values  (in Tier 1 cities). I could go on…

…so I will.

So are cappuccino prices, so are typical eat-out prices, so are F1 ticket prices (sans mongrel performances)…

The NHS in the UK, though battered and bruised, does its job decently well, generally. So does Social Security. (St. Paul’s Cathedral tent-bearers and Occupy Wall Street notwithstanding).

Indians are self-governing NHSes, each individual relying on instant outlays from one’s already tax-lightened wallets to ensure continued healthy existence. Health Insurance claims? They discharge their wallet weight reduction responsibilities reasonably well; while taking great care to ensure their own coffers are well-inventoried.

Probably it makes sense to peer at the Gini Index (a measure of income inequality. 0 being no inequality, 100% being maximum inequality). India figures at about the same levels as UK but below China.

However, it is important to zone in on how the things that count are counted.

Scratch the surface a bit and it turns out that the Indian measure has historically considered consumption expenditure and not incomes in measuring inequality. Given the each-to-his-own Social Security situation, saving rates are higher than the West. When income is taken into account, India races ahead of China on inequality.

So, we have a situation where prices of common consumption goods are generally on par with UK, income inequality is higher than its self-confessed economic competitor, China; service levels leave much to be desired…and yet, prices keep inching up.

While this grand entertainer is underway, the economists powers-that-be claim inflation is 10-11%. A few trips to the countryside will quickly puncture this hypothesis. A burger in a rural town costs only slightly lower than in a Tier 1 city. Considering that store rentals are a fraction of a city outlet, not to mention income levels, it is intriguing to see outlets prospering with such pricing.

Many will be quick to pounce on me, alleging that I have presented only a rudimentary picture of reality. It is probably a good idea (for the pouncers) that I stick to rudimentaries. When one pencils in the chasm in service quality levels, the divergences in consumption versus incomes become stark.

We are moving towards a picture of reality that points to the following:

  • Indian consumption patterns are evolving. And, rapidly. An increasing share of an individual’s wallet is being directed towards consumption. As a result, prices are galloping ahead of income growth and is likely to continue to do so. I can hear the dusty debt clock ticking
  • The parallel economy continues to exert a major influence on prices. A thorn named Anna Hazare could prick this bubble. While one remains skeptical, sustained momentum on this anti-corruption/black money front could trigger a reflexive correction in prices

The above scenarios point to two divergent implications for investing. If the first dominates, consumption appears to be an enticing story. If the latter gains ascendancy, the opposite positioning is called for.

More importantly, on the humour front, the contradictions are noteworthy. The supposedly capitalistic UK (and West, in general), debt-drowning problems notwithstanding, has a socialistic character; while the economic plutocracy known as India masquerades as a socialism!

The supposedly poor live in ornately constructed mansions in the countryside, deriving incomes from farming and land-leasing that generally do not disturb the tax coffers. But (un)surprisingly, they continue to appear poor. The wealthy, on the other hand, live in cities but do their best to re-emphasize their roots to poverty and/or farming at every possible opportunity. The incentive system goads the poor to continue remaining poor, or at least project an illusion of poverty; while the  wealthy are heavily incentivized to continue in their state of inertia.

What about the unwearying middle-class, tax-paying common man?

Source: Unknown

The Art of Rural Warfare

Posted: October 1, 2011 in General, Humour
Tags: , ,

Agitations are the in thing this season. The voyager is witness to many a fast-unto-deaths for various causes. Some to find a solution to the centuries-old problem of corruption and others zealously requesting a separate state. Some of these efforts could be termed genuine but in most other instances, protagonists furtively tend to their grumpy stomachs every now and then, hoping to outwit peeping Toms. Peeping Toms appreciate that fasting can be a tough business; with the indulger often ending up hungry, so an occasional helping of Potato Chips dipped in tomato sauce followed by chicken biryani and tea shouldn’t be a deplorable offence.

The following story relates to a small-time town in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh, India. I shall not bother the reader with necessary details such as motivation behind the demonstration and so on. Henceforth, the demonstration will be referred to as the Movement and the demonstrators, the Illuminati.

A brief introduction to the typical Art of Rural Warfare is in order though, prior to the story.

A street-war in bucolic locales begins with a tuneful jangling of the vocal chords, reminiscent of a tiger’s growl and a visible frontward coiling of the tongue, akin to an elephant’s curl of its trunk prior to attack. The Wail is expected to achieve multiple objectives of revving up one’s dormant battle instincts, striking fear in the hearts of the opponent and arousing slumbering soldiers. It is generally most useful in accomplishing the last objective. Contortions of the tongue and protruding eyes are intended to impress upon the opponent the seriousness of one’s malevolent intentions. The opponent is expected to back down at this warning but generally, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, the opponents repay with an equal and opposite reaction. For no fault on its part, the loincloth which adorns the gents is then subject to several slaps around the thigh-area, followed by wind-mill like motion of the arms, as the warriors shadow swim above water. The body is known to join in and so do the legs in a rigorous warm-up just before commencement of battle.

Baleful voices found their way into my ears. I craned my neck in the direction of the source and discovered mace-like hands sparring with the air above and determined feet punishing the earth beneath. For a moment, the mob seemed to resemble a pack of irate mongrels. Adorned in colourful clothing and equipped with flags that emitted fluorescence, the Illuminati were self-professed flag bearers of the Movement. The group halted on an open field and on closer inspection, one discovered a range of metal accessories that are generally commonplace in gladiatorial contests. The only missing ingredient (which wasn’t missed for long) was a catalyst to flag off the drama. One wasn’t sure if the Illuminati had a definite objective that they were working towards. Not that it mattered; to them or to me.

The time-tested technique to incite a jingoist mob is a Socratic attempt at a discussion on the pros-n-cons of the issue at hand. This was the Movement. How could anyone question the prudence of such a noble activity? A Socrates regrettably committed this grave sin.

The leader of the pack – a gentleman inclined towards roundness – let out an ungentle-manly growl hoping to drill jingoism back into the fidgety mob, which looked like succumbing to reason. The snarl only succeeded in shooing real mongrels away. The air-beating resumed and the leader’s voice was lost in the debris of cacophony that had broken out. These are things that are too much for the Ego to handle. Smarting from the dismissive nonchalance with which he was greeted by the Illuminati, the leader thought it appropriate to unleash another round of verbal ammunition, this time at a higher octave.

The Illuminati seemed to quieten for a bit. Impressed, the leader stomped his feet and was beginning to consider his next move when a simpleton landed in the leader’s vast constitution. Someone had shoved the simpleton from his left, who lost balance and thought of embracing the leader for support. The latter, however, misinterpreted the simpleton’s decorous intentions. Glowering, he seized the man and decided to let his restive hands do the communication.

The simpleton felt a mace coming to an abrupt halt in his cheek. Dazed at the assault he took some moments to regain his composure. The leader, meanwhile, looked around to his sycophants for approval; nodding his head and smiling in self-congratulation. He hadn’t considered a guerrilla manoeuvre by the simpleton, though. Fleet-footed, the simpleton compensated for the great mismatch in body volume with agility that had never managed to convince the leader of its utility.

A leg, swinging like a pendulum, disappeared into the leader’s underbelly.

The protrusion around his centre of gravity prevented the leader from addressing the point of impact with his eyes. The leader’s hands, abruptly reminded of their primary responsibilities, moved involuntarily towards the gentleman’s ailing sausage, caging it in protection. It was too late. The cost of the lapse was borne by the leader, who let out a roar in pain, whirled around and sat down. In subsequent proceedings he took no further part.

The sycophants swung into action, drawing out their weapons of mass destruction. The simpleton’s camp followed and battle lines were drawn. The reflection of the sun off the metals seemed to stir a whiff of reason into the soldiers, who thought it wise to replace weapons with their hands. The sycophants turned towards their leader for a battle cry and were greeted instead with a low-frequency whine. Overcome with consternation at this sight, the sycophants decided to exact revenge.

The typical Rural Warfare setting outlined in the beginning of this story played out to near perfection. Roars rippled out in all directions, tongues curled in unison, eyes magnified to twice their normal size, thighs suffered in stoic silence and arms waved in circular motion in both camps. This proceeded for what seemed like an eternity with each side inviting the other to take first strike. Heartfelt abuses were hurled to and fro; directed first at the opponent and then invoking ancestors several generations back in time. One felt sorry for the souls who were responsible for putting these Illuminati on earth. So stinging were the abuses to the kindred clans. But the impending fisticuff remained a stillborn.

The ‘war’ threatened to be played out solely in the verbal realm. The sycophants had seen the fate of their leader and as much as they adored him, were loath to join him in pain. The simpleton’s party, meanwhile, wisely considered the mismatch in numbers, apart from the mismatch in physical bulks which was roughly 2.5:1. Both sides judiciously, but regrettably, settled for verbal warfare. As the gullets grew weary, momentum was lost and both sides menacingly cowered away, unwilling to give a quarter. The leader was escorted away by his sycophants, sausage firmly protected by the hand guards.

So, after an entertaining lag, reason had triumphed over jingoism and egos. A magnificent build-up to what promised to be a grand spectacle had fizzled out.

What about the Movement?

It didn’t matter. To them. Or to me.

An Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with anything and everything to do with the environment seems to be the flavour of the current century, so far. Paranoia has received a major boost following the emergence of the Go Green fixation that has gripped the developed world. And, worryingly, it threatens to spread its tentacles to other parts of the globe, who are still toddlers in the Art of Refined Pollution.

Yes, it is essential to preserve Mother Earth from alien or man-made obliteration. Yes, it is just to try to break the natural Law of Nature to preserve herds of rather useless organisms from extinction. Condolences if morally commendable acts lead to evolutionarily lamentable consequences. Yes, it is reprehensible to poke un-Facebookish holes on the ozone layer, either from noxious industrial or, more virulent, human gases.

Political science followers are well-versed in Interest Group Theory, where opposing groups slug it out, furthering serious agendas, often through laughable means. Interest Group Theory, the term, sounds as dreary now as it did when I sat through engrossing (really) discussions at University. I shall concoct a new term for the phenomenon that appeals to my razed imagination – The Potato Effect.

So, the British have long been enamoured by the Adam of vegetables, the potato. Over time as potato consumption increased to a point when the human form evolved to resemble the very vegetable it enjoyed consuming, one (couch-potato) group sprung into action. Potatoes-are-good-for-you was replaced by anti-potato rhetoric. In a blow to Mae West, the anti-potato group decided that too much of a good thing wasn’t so good after all. This propaganda caused some consternation among the potato producers community. And so the endangered species promptly gave birth to a group that was opposed to cuts in potato production. Then a third group took shape, to act as crusaders against potato wastage. Spewing a barrage of statistics quantifying annual potato wastage, this group stoked dormant altruistic tendencies in human beings, citing hungry and deprived humans in other parts of the planet. How could someone waste so much? Wasn’t it wiser to transport excess potatoes to the less-privileged? Resounding story line, indeed. But they quickly ran into a problem. The don’t-poke-the-ozone group invoked the Law of Transport Pollution and contended that transporting potatoes to faraway lands would be damaging to the atmosphere, the fauna, the flora and all other species known (and unknown) to Man.

Lost? Here’s a summary.

One group focused on maximizing potato production that another group urged not to consume that another group was loath to waste that another group did not want sent elsewhere. You produced what could not be consumed, wasted or shared.

 

It seems the very act of acting is enough to kill everybody.

The Potato Effect is a hilariously threatening ailment to this part of the world, which is still finding its Pollution Quotient. As Steel, Automobile and Power plants’ commissioning hit roadblocks, the Potato Effect seems to be taking root. This nation has a long way to (d)evolve before the extremes of the Potato Effect become visible but one sees the signposts.

The present state is a nation which, in aggregate, does not produce what it consumes, wastes and seldom shares. To move to a state where one produces what cannot be consumed, wasted or shared is probably going to be one of the most enthralling transformations in the 21st century.

In the long run we are all dead, said John Maynard Keynes. As we continue polluting ourselves into extinction, could someone lend me a pack of potato chips please?