Monday, September 26, 2011

There's a scandal brewing in your own household, and you (probably) don't even know about it

Got your attention, didn't I?

But there is something seriously wrong in your household (and in mine) right now, and I'll be damned if I don't tell you about it.

Fear not, everyone around you is a nice person (at least from what I know), and even if they're not, this post is not about them.

And don't worry, your investments are safe.

And so is your house, and assets and everything visible is fine.

And if it weren't, I trust you'd do something about it soon enough.

But still there is something messed up in your house, and you still don't quite know about it.

It's that most of the information that is floating around you, is high on emotional content and very low on scientific basis.

Reality shows, newspaper articles, Facebook posts which are copy-pasted, YouTube videos. The kind that if it bleeds, it leads.

But if you're reading this blog post, I assume you're of a certain age, and educational background and honestly, I don't care if you're emotionally "blackmailable".

All things considered, you mostly deserve it.

But it's your kids I worry about.

They think you know everything.

And then you let them watch Chhota Bheem, and Sa Re Ga Ma Little Champs and God knows what else, where there is zero scientific logic being displayed.

Tantriks give ashirwaad, and the job is done. 6 year olds who can dance like Hrithik Roshan are considered role models. Even more so, if they have a single mother or a limp.

Maths and Science can go take a hike. Or maybe, be outsourced to a private tutor.

If your kids are messed up in the long run, don't tell me you weren't warned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Times of Bullshit..

Over the last few days, my window to the world has been the Times of India. Kinda like life was, when I was a few years older than Annika. That's how it used to be. Regardless of what the 9 pm news said, life was what was written in the TOI. The rules of the English language were based on what was written in the TOI

But that was then. This is now.

Now is when winners of the "prestigious" TOI Social Impact Award get considered for the Padma awards, no matter that the award is in its inaugural year.

Now is when the Times Insight group, writes 10th standard essays on the petrol price in India being the 3rd highest by purchasing power parity, that grace the front page of the Sunday edition, while comparing the prices of gasoline in India today, with those in January 2011 for the rest of the world..

Now is when the Times of India leads a so-called ACT - Against Corruption Together to support the Anna Hazare campaign, but conveniently leaves out any mention of any dissenting voice.. (Could it have something to do with this development, I wonder.. but that's for another day.. )

Now is when the Times sells its masthead and its front page to anyone and everyone who will pay them top dollar.

Now is also when the Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. Wikipedia page, reads the following disclaimer:
This article is written like an advertisement. Please help rewrite this article from a neutral point of view.

Now is when, accused of  found guilty of misleading readers through paid articles that look like actual articles through Medianet and Private Treaties, the CEO of BCCL has this to say:
Even if you make an advertisement, and put a circle around it, how is that important? Why is it important that it should be made clear to the reader?

At this point, does it matter what the TOI prints on a daily basis? Maybe they could just print receipts for their patrons in their daily tripe..

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
Harry G. Frankfurt
- On Bullshit..  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things I think I think - (Second hand) post partum edition

- It DOES NOT get any easier the second time around. Even if you do have some idea of what you're in for.
- For some reason, everyone around you is more excited. You're just glad all went well.
- You're busy counting down days for him to start sleeping all night, also known as a race with no known finish line.
- Somewhere deep inside, both parents want a girl and a boy. So that they can dress them up in pinks and teach them a lefty cover drive like Brian Lara.
- Somewhere deep inside, neither parent cares which of the kids dresses in pinks and which one plays the cover drive, as long as they're healthy.
- A man who has witnessed first hand his wife giving birth should really have no more fears in life. Not even year end job reviews.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


... you read the books that you want to, rather than those that you HAVE to..
    or read books at all,

... you respect what you do
    and not your job title.

... you think enough, to not react,
    and not enough to judge those that you meet, 

... you listen to, and not just hear, what people have to say,
    and believe only what you've verified yourself,

... you tell the truth, as you know it, every single time
    with little concern for the consequences,

... you don't have to justify your actions
    "Because everyone is doing so"

... you live in the present but for the future,
    spend more time in the here and now, rather than the there and then

... your only regret is that you don't have one,
    and your proudest achievement is yet to come..

... you spend time thinking about people who spend some time to think about you,
    and have that one special someone that you cannot lie to.

... you think of your childhood and first up is a smile on your lips
    and think of your parents and friends and all those who have helped you get here. 

... you do something for a living, 
    and yet that is not all that you do in your life

... you enjoy yourself 
    but can face yourself in the mirror every single day

As I once read, 

And most of all - my dearests,
your father will die a happy man!!! 

Iss Wall per peshaab karna manaa hai....

Actually, given current economy, Bangalore can probably afford a Tomatina festival more than Spain..

Actually, the price of fuel is a good indicator of how much we use it..

Actually, believe it or not, the Government of India is not out to screw you.. (You're too tiny a fish to fry)

Actually, YouTube is a great idea to see videos which otherwise you wouldn't quite see..

Actually, it's sunny outside, 25C, and you're supposed to be playing games OUTSIDE...

Actually, your thoughts are precious and supposedly unique..

But yeah, why waste a good chance to copy paste???

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's (probably) all about the money...

Nations are, for want of a better phrase, primarily created for identifying revenue payments.

This piece of land here pays India its taxes and that part over there pays it China, and there over the mountain, is Pakistan, though India believes that the people there should be paying them and not the guys in Pakistan… Or something like it.

There’s nothing relevant as such about land boundaries outside of this. Culture, language, religion etc. are all conveniences created by us to further symbolize the common revenue generation module.

And if you look at it, at some levels our behavior is reflecting this irrelevance of nations and the leaders of these nations.

In almost every country, across the board, the common sentiment is that life has never been worse. Yet almost every country, is at a standard of living that is better than ever before in recorded history.

You might think that the earth is unable to handle the 7 billion, that it houses (or will house around this time next year). But that’s not quite right. The earth is quite able to handle 10 billion people.

It’s just the world as we know it today will be unable to handle 10 billion.

In a global world supposedly brought together by technology, nations as we know them, are becoming irrelevant. If we can work out a common revenue generation model for the world, most of the problems in this world could be solved.

And it's not like it isn't happening. It has already started. 

Take a minute to think back on your life. 

Where you are today, is probably not where you were 10 years ago. 

Where you are today, is almost definitely not where you will be 10 years from now. 

If money knows no national boundaries, why should we? 

John Lennon was probably 50 years ahead of his time.. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

There's a lot you can learn from a 3 year old.

She knows a bit of everything. 

And pretty much nothing. 

She thinks she knows everything 

She thinks she knows nothing.

So the questions never stop. 

But always is "Who, What, Where, How.. "

Never "Why" 

It's such an amazing adventure for her.. 

Everyday is something new.. "Wow, did you know mixing blue with yellow, gives me green.." 

"Wow, mamma, look firecrackers.. " 

"Papppa.... Red potty... Wowwwwwwww"

A 3 year old is the ultimate lay man. 

You can tell her anything and she'll think it's the gospel

I can tell her that the red potty is because she was naughty yesterday, and not the beetroot she had for lunch

I can tell her that naughty kids who don't listen to their parents get ants in their pants.

She's my lab rat..

She's my moral compass..  

Pray for me that I don't screw it up.. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Things I think I think – Bloody corrupt politicians edition

  • Before we start, let's do a small role play

Think for a moment, that I am in a decision making position for the company that deals with the Government of India for something new. The first question I would have to answer on is the profitability for the company. Profitability (crudely) is the total income less the total investment, such that the return on investment is higher than what would normally accrue if we did nothing.

Regardless of which way you dice it, if there is "bribe" that I may have to pay, is something that goes in my "investment" column. The investment is made on the assumption of a certain amount of future income that would make my entire set of investments worthwhile. If that income doesn't accumulate as expected, my entire investment (legal or otherwise) is not worthwhile. Thus, the only way I would encourage this corruption is if the end income justifies the investment.

Now who provides me the income? In most cases, it would be end user. If the end user were to decide that they would not want to do business with my company, my entire business model on this project collapses.

  • I often think about this model, when people use their Reliance 3G connection at 1p/min to register their protest against corruption on my Facebook wall.

  • I don't think corruption is the biggest threat to India at the moment. Nor is communal violence, Sensex tanking, rising, or whatever it is that we feel right now.
 The biggest immediate threat to India is Anna Hazare believing his own hype.
 There, I said it.
  • I would like to meet the following people asking them what they are smoking:
  • The people who termed Anna as a Gandhian considering he advocates the death penalty for people guilty of corruption.  
  • The people who believe that it was Gandhi's hunger strikes that made the British leave India. My understanding of history, weak as it has always been, was that Gandhi undertook hunger strikes as a way for penance for the ills in our own society. What got the British out of India was more economics, where the benefits of running India wasn't quite worth the hassles given the income drop thanks to the Swadeshi movements and World War II. But then, I may be wrong, as in most cases
  • The people who sincerely believe that getting rid of corrupt politicians will turn India into a Utopia of sorts. 
  • The people who believe that Utopia is a fun place to be in.

  • I found it a bit strange that for all the history that was supposedly being created, and all the protests against elected representatives who take our taxes and do nothing for us in return, there wasn't much representation from the demographic which returns the highest voter turnout (rural / urban poor) and the demographic that pays the largest percentage of taxes (corporate types). Aamir Khan was there, but I also read somewhere that he's in discussions for a talk show that would highlight such issues, so let's discount that for a while. 

  • Maybe that's a story somewhere. Those who vote don't pay taxes. Those who do pay the taxes, don't really vote. A friend of mine, Adi Garg, whose thoughts I value tremendously once gave me this gem:
 "Middle class values are like a crutch that people like you and me use to justify why we are the way we are. The poor are too busy trying to survive to worry about shit like this and the rich really don't need to make any excuses"

…Or words to that effect.
  • I also think that given the constraints he faces, Manmohan Singh has not done a bad job as PM. "Given the constraints he faces" is the operative phrase here. For all chatter about "how weak he is, how he takes directions from a higher authority, how he is keeping the chair warm for Rahul baba, has been weak on corruption, etc.", the basic scorecard is that the matter is in the courts, with suspects (across the political spectrum) currently in jail. To me, Manmohan Singh's troubles are more related to bad PR than anything else. For those of you who believe that the Congress is the root of all evil in this country, the question you need also answer is this:

Would you rather have Sushma Swaraj as your PM?  

  • You might say that Narendra Modi has a great chance of being PM, should the BJP come to power. And he will use some Sudarshan Chakra to rid us of all our ills. We'll be number one in the world, and then all will be well. You'll then wake up, brush your teeth and then go back to work.  

  • It's a sad commentary on where we are as a society that the urban middle classes of India do not trust the political class. It is not personal issue against Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi, but when there have been years of complete neglect, mistrust develops. Not really Rahul Gandhi at fault here, more his grandmother. But that most people would rather trust a random comment on their Facebook wall rather than the public utterances of their elected leaders' means there's some problem somewhere.

  • So, where does the problem lie? Electoral reforms for sure. So I am very interested to see what are the reforms that Anna Hazare's bunch comes up with next for him to fast for. That said, I don't think that given his past track record of "everything-is-black-and-white, I-am-right-and-you-bloody-politician-who-is-not-fit-to-be-in-my-celestial-presence-is-wrong-as-hell" hunger fasts I really don't think it amounts to much. His method is too much dependent on an idealism and then barring people who do not amount to that ideal state.

Kinda like Kelvin's absolute zero. We know it's there, but no one has actually seen it.
  • I wish I could say I knew what the problem was. I wish I could say that there's a quick switch that we need to flip and everything will be ok. But that's not how things work. But I do have some ideas, which even though I believe might help I am not going to go on hunger strikes for.

  • For example, I do believe that the stupidest thing that our leaders have done, is created states based on languages and cultural identities, rather than on administrative manageability. I also believe that the metros of India, and the larger cities, have no business being state capitals. I also think that electoral redistribution should happen on the basis of some formula of population and tax receipts, with a review every decade.

  • For this and many more, please let me know if you'd like to hear more. We can indulge in a debate online over email.
But let's keep it civil.

Let's consider both of us have the best interests of the country in our minds, and we only differ in our means of reaching that end.

Let's keep it such that we don't have to call each other names.

Let's doubt each others' philosophies, but not intent or competence.

Let's agree to disagree.

Let's not gloat in our victories.

Let's not call milestones as victories.

Promise me this, and then we'll talk.