Category: General

7 Apr 2007

Brake Fail

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:24pm

To maximize the probability of finding one's best match, he has to date thirty-seven people. The next person who's better than those thirty-seven is, with reasonable certainty, the best match. Whoever thought Math is not romantic!

If Mr Y, an Indian, is taking a flight from Place X to Place Y on a Saturday evening, what is the probability of his chancing upon a girl who has finished with dating thirty-seven guys? Better yet, what is the probability that this girl will occupy the seat next to his? In a conservative culture like that of India where most people don't even date, it tends to zero! Let's take Mr Y to a more liberal culture (as regards dating), and he gets lucky.

While at it, I wonder which culture is most liberal with man-woman relationships. French? Irish? Italian? Mexican? By most liberal, I mean - you like each other, you live together; you feel it's not working, you break up; no ritual, no vows, no lawyer, no fucken bullshit.

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30 Mar 2007

Yes, Off with Sachin!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:02am

People have been asking for his head for years now. Let's finish with it. Let's pull Sachin out of the team. Every time he fails to score and the team loses, media decide he's past his prime. I'm just tired of this non-stop nonsense. The Times of India, India's no.1 entertainment daily (The Times of India of the 80s and that of now - what a tragic transition!), keeps asking "Is this Sachin's last ODI innings?" It gets as irritating as Mandira Bedi's analysis of Australia's victory does.

Sachin will be 34 in April, and every goddamn newschannel cribs as if he is 45 and has been rendered, by age, ineligible to play any more cricket. He has better record in 2006 than most players, but he is given only a below par rating because India's record doesn't match up. Is it one man's fault if the team fares bad? Nobody asks what the ten other idiots were doing when Sachin fails.

India have won 29 out of 41 times when Sachin scored a century in ODIs. Even Bradman would certify that it's an incredible record. He has the highest number of runs in World Cup and topped the charts two times. No Ponting or Lara or Jayasuriya or Inzamam has managed that. If not for his superior performance in the 2003 outing, India wouldn't have even made it to the finals. He failed to fire in the final and everybody nailed him! "Sachin is finished", they said! It is indeed the mark of a great batsman to come good in crucial matches, but no batsman in the world can do it every time.

Yes, his performance has dipped in the past couple of years, but he is not so woefully out of form as Sehwag is. If record is the criterion and sacking is the solution, then the team will have only debutants! Even with a string of unusual number of low scores, Sachin's record during this period is not very bad in comparison with that of Dravid.

Comparison with Ponting comes up every time. Ponting has the advantage of belonging to a great team and a less celebrity-obsessed culture. Australian team's confidence level is high and it's not as dependent on individual performances as India's is. Check the number of times Australia lost when Ponting had failed and that India lost when Sachin had failed. It tells the story.

Expectations don't get as high with Ponting, or any batsman else for that matter, as they do with Sachin. And the 24x7 channels make it all the more difficult. Everything is hyped up and the weight of expectation grows. Any great batsman in his thirties will get mindfucked if he is expected by millions to score a century every time he walks out to bat. Even younger chaps fine it tough to cope up with such pressure - Pathan and Dhoni are good examples. Sachin has the grit to not let that effect in nervous breakdown - that he has been playing for almost two decades proves it. It'd be good if media go slow and realise how important it is for the game to have such players. If a writer wins the Man Booker with his debut novel, and you expect him to win it with every book hence, writing will become a nightmare for him.

He gets hit on the helmet and they say he can't read pace any more! It does good to remember that he was hit, on occasion, even in the early days of his career. And it's stupid to relate an occasional lapse to a slip in ability or agression. On his day, he can be the most destructive batsman in the world. McGrath lamented that Sachin treated him like a club bowler in the '96 world cup. Warne's nightmares are all too well-known. Akram, Waqar, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Shoaib - everyone will tell you of Sachin's exploits. The only contemporary batsman who troubled bowlers as much is Lara. McGrath, Pollock, Vaas dismissed Sachin more frequently than Waqar, Lee, Shoaib did. So, the talk about his dip in ability to read pace is bullshit.

If we sack Sachin, whom do we bank on? Young blood and Dravid? Dravid is undoubtedly among the all-time best, but his strength is consolidation. Very rarely has one seen Dravid pull off a victory with just a tailender for company. Check the rareguard exploits of Sachin, Lara and Inzamam for comparison. And who are these mysterious young chaps that media refer to? Get 11 chaps in their late teens or early twenties and you get a great team? Haven't we experimented with n number of those young chaps already, only to find a couple of promising players? Young chaps who play cricket are million in number in this country, but to find a replacement for Sachin is an altogether different business.

Dealing with hypotheses is damn easy, and media thrive on this practice. Opt for experience and lose, and they will say "low on adrenaline. You should've tried young blood". Opt for youth and lose, and they will say "audacious, insensible experiment. You should've banked on experience and wisdom". Since the promise of hypothesis beats the harshness of reality, there are always millions of takers for these. Get a few of those, make them yell, spice it up with your own articulation and silly analysis, and you get a great story to reflect, as they claim, national mood. The TRPs go up, number of advertisers go up, you get a hike, and the business objectives are met. How do you care how the team does? Reality comes with so many open endings that you can play with hypotheses for eternity.

Let appreciation of sport go to the dogs, media just want stories to up their audience and advertising revenue. I really want to see Sachin out of the team. Then, I'd absolutely enjoy watching the newsreader on Times Now referring to the absence of Sachin as the reason for India's failure, watching a few cranks on one of the NDTV's debate shows questioning the selection committee's decision to drop Sachin, and watching Rajdeep Sardesai indicate an SMS poll result that suggests 86% feel Sachin should be retained.

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24 Mar 2007

UG Krishnamurti - The End

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:20pm

March 22, 2007. 2.30 pm. Vallecrosia, Italy.

UG was eighty-nine years old. As per his advice, with no rituals or funeral rites, the cremation was carried out the next day at 2.45 pm, in Vallecrosia.

Confined to bed for seven weeks after a fall, his consumption of food and water became infrequent and then ceased altogether. "It's time to go," he declared, joined his palms in namaste, thanked his friends and advised them to return to their places. Only his longtime friends, the filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt, Larry and Susan Morris, and few other friends stayed back to guard his body and do whatever was necessary when the end came.

UG did not leave any specific instructions as to how to dispose of his dead body. "You can throw it on the garbage heap, as far as I am concerned," he often would say.

- (Source: K Study Circle)

UG, as Osho had said, "missed JK" in spite of being with him for 12 years. What a miss, indeed!

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20 Mar 2007

The Right Master

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:52pm

The sun had set on the western margin of the river among the tangle of the forest.

The hermit boys had brought the cattle home, and sat round the fire to listen to the master, Guatama, when a strange boy came, and greeted him with fruits and flowers, and, bowing low at his feet, spoke in a bird-like voice--"Lord, I have come to thee to be taken into the path of the supreme Truth.

"My name is Satyak

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13 Mar 2007

Life - A Short Story

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:37am

If Mr X lives for 100 years and meets one person every second, he will meet 3155760000 (assuming 25 leap years) people in his lifetime.
If he meets two persons every second, he will meet 6311520000 people.

World population (as of March 13, 2007; courtesy - 6695921452.

...just a random mapping. Purposeless and accidental. As life is, I suppose. 

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Current Music: June Pothe...

11 Mar 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:27pm

Thanks to MV, the discussion on astrology is still active and I like to note a few more points.

1.Science is not biased against astrology. Science is sceptical about imagination and insists on verification. More so when theories are based on flawed concepts. There are still some primitive communities that believe anaesthetics are bad because they interfere with God's decree. Although logically you cannot prove the belief wrong, yet you dismiss it as unreasonable for it's based on ridiculous assumptions. 

2.Science doesn't claim it knows everything and its findings are final. On the contrary. Many theories - be they Einstein's or Freud's or Newton's - were dumped when they proved inconsistent with results of experiments and further studies. Science doesn't deny mystery; only, it refuses to explain it away with mere assumptions.

3.If you are an immigration officer, you don't go by trust. You insist on the documents even if a chap is giving you genuine information but has no documents. If the region is known for liars and fake documents, you will be even more meticulous. Even though it appears arrogant, it is a fairly sensible approach. If you go by trust, you have to take a chance with a thousand guys (for there's no reason why you should believe one and doubt another) and that's not the best way to go about doing your job. Science does just what you do as that officer. And given that man has the propensity to believe in wrong things than right, it is all the more strict with scrutiny.

"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones."
- Russell

4.To assume a point and then go back and connect the dots is not the best approach to understand anything. It's easy and flawed. It's very easy to suspect or even frame a guy and gather evidence to convict him. If you want to see God, you can see God by doing all that mental circus for a few weeks. If you believe in prayer, you can relate the consequences to God's preferences for you. Start imagining the world is scheming against you and you'll become paranoid in two months. Your perception will be absolutely true for you, and nothing in this world can persuade you to doubt it. It fits despots, fundamentalists and Bush.

5.Science doesn't dismiss "interconnection" in universe. But as regards "influence" among the objects, it relies on studies rather than appearances. If imagination would suffice, there's no flaw in Douglas Adams' take - "Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation -- every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history -- from, say, one small piece of fairy cake."

6.If X is Y's friend or mentor, X influences Y's psyche, not the color or texture of his hair. Imagine a celestial object influencing the personality of Mr.Z, living on an island in the Atlantic! Variations in temperature or light can affect your mood, but it's always the state of the world that affects your psyche. You react differently to the hit of a meteor from that of war even though the devastation is same in both cases. A quake might render you homeless and compel you to contemplate the cause or the precautionary measures you should take next time, but it's the care and help that the world extends that will shatter or reinforce your faith in humanity. Drop a nuclear bomb and no planetary configuration can help man to survive.

7.Predicting is not a tough business, as long as accuracy is not demanded for. Contemporary events suggest where the world is moving to. The effects of global warming, the dominance of machines, the advent of gadgets, the kind of diseases, political unrests and wars, whether a pair will marry, etc are being fairly predicted without referring to any arrangement in the skies. Problem is, accuracy is mapped only in retrospect. Predictions of astrologers are no better than this. If your firm has restructured staff the last two times when it made an acquisition, you can also predict that a lay-off circus is in store if you chance upon the news of the latest acquisition. Predicting the result of games is a big business. Stock movements are predicted. But no scientist or Nostradamus can tell me the exact rise of a stock or the result of an interview or the time of my death. Astrolgers do no better. So, what's the deal with stars, et al, except as a fancy exercise?

8.Our feelings or orientations follow templates. The differences in these among us is just in degree, not in form. So, if you take 100 people, you will certainly notice a pattern among groups. Horoscopes do no better than this chance data.

Rachleff tells of a very interesting experiment in which an identical horoscope was mailed to over 100 persons who had given their natal information to a post office box number. The recipients had 12 different birth periods represented by their birth dates, and their varieties were as opposite as could be expected, through Leo and Cancer. Each person was told that the horoscope sent out pertained only to that one person, and basically they accepted it as such. He tells us that "many admired its pertinence and exactitude". The fact is, if enough information is given, we are able to find ways in which it fits our own experiences. (Clifford Wilson and John Weldon, Occult Shock and Psychic Forces)

And as Time magazine observed, "There are so many variables and options to play with that the astrologer is always right. Break a leg when your astrologer told you the signs were good, and he can congratulate you on escaping what might have happened had the signs been bad. Conversely, if you go against the signs and nothing happens, the astrologer can insist that you were subconsciously careful because you were forewarned."

How credible, then, is this horoscope business?

9.That a belief system's origins date back a few millennia to Babylon or Egypt or Vedas doesn't mean it is infallible. With all due respect to their attempts to comprehend the universe and its ways, if an idea is based on flawed assumptions, it's wrong. Not up to appreciate the discovery that geocentric theory is wrong, the adherents of astrology must've prevailed and passed on the belief system to the next generation. Belief is a luxury. Belief is redundant.

10.If a girl, who you have a crush on, smiles at you, you'd like to believe that it's a sign of approval rather than an innocent gesture. Signs are open to interpretation. If you stop at that, it's nothing better than imagination. People find it boring if they are told the planets and stars exist just like that and affect them no more than a pebble on a beach hundred miles away. So they play with fancy ideas. Imagination is a matchless tool for penning poetry, not for comprehending and explaining the workings of the universe. 

11.Astrology is paranoia.

A man said to the universe, "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." - Stephen Crane

(P.S. MV, thanks and sorry :-) ) 

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9 Mar 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:32am

Over the relic of Lord Buddha King Bimbis

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4 Mar 2007

Passing Clouds

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:01pm

This would infuriate a few friends further, but here it goes...

1.Astrology is geocentric and anthropocentric. Everything is interpreted according as our interests and considers Earth as the static frame of reference. It's a fallout of the primitive belief systems that considered Earth as the centre of the universe and associated divine or evil attributes (again, according as our conventions) to celestial objects and phenomena.

2.Lot of theories refer to the magnetic and gravitational fields of objects. The strengths of these fields - as regards their effect - are inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So, although Jupiter is many times bigger than Earth, yet its magnetic field is about a trillion times weaker than the Earth�s. One would experience a far stronger field from the lights and washing machine in his room. Mars has no intrinsic magentic field at all.  

3.A planet can have only two effects - simple gravity and tidal pull. Gravity drops with the square of the distance. Tidal force is even weaker; it drops with the cube of the distance. The total pull of all the planets combined is 0.017, which is not even 2% of the Moon's pull. The force of the Moon itself on us is only about 0.000003 times the Earth's. The effect, by a most generous estimate, is negligible. So, there!

4.Talking of stars, the nearest to us is the Sun. Earth's magnetic field acts as a shield and deflects the solar wind, for if Earth was exposed to Sun's radiation, it will become a dead planet, unable to support life. Hardly anything is known about other stars; besides, they are much much farther away. So, what kind of effect can they have?

5.With such negligible effects that stars and planets can possibly have, how can their configuration and chance alignments have any effect? So, all that talk about the effects when Jupiter is in Virgo, Mars in Taurus, Moon in Gemini, etc is nonsense. And why is there no information on their effects on animals? Why are there no forecasts for dogs, whales, rats and pandas? Are the celestial objects selective about their targets? Are we some superior species to be the chosen ones? Is the effect on animals implicit, instead?  

6.Genetics, sociology, psychology and evolutionary psychology explain almost everything about our psyches and behaviour. A small injury to a certain part of the brain of an introverted chap can change him to an extrovert. So, where does astrology figure? And what exactly does it explain that these cannot? And what is the "effect" that it talks about? Is astrology talking about some magical force that mysteriously penetrates all the obstacles, defies all laws of matter and energy, and finally reaches Earth to influence our personalities and events?

7.Does astrology mistake our change of moods for the result of a decisive influence from stellar objects? A hot, sunny day makes one feel restless and uneasy, a full-moon night makes one expansive and exuberant, a pleasant day with an easy breeze flowing inflicts delight. Nevertheless, it's nothing mysterious. Indigestion can upset your day. A beclouded evening with thunder and lightning makes even animals gloomy and scared. To attribute these to cosmic influence is ridiculous.

8.Theories proposed by astrology are based on primitive assumptions and are inconsistent with those that have been validated by science. So, it has no validity except in the form of a belief. To say, "It is true because I believe in it, and so do millions" is a dead-end. Belief itself is a dead-end. If my neighbour tells me he has seen God, I cannot refute him in any way. Does the fact that millions believe in heaven and hell imply that they are indeed real? Does the fact that astrology has a billion takers imply that it is a sound discipline, after all? It is a discipline fueled by superstition and driven by emotion. As regards evidence, it offers nothing.

9.Geniuses like Russell and Freud dismissed astrology. Stephen Hawking opined it is rubbish. JK would not even talk about it. And these chaps obviously know more about it all than we do. Saying, "Those guys are wrong, and I'll get a million people who agree" is very easy, but proving them wrong is another point altogether. And it is the latter that matters.

We have too much of ourselves in our brains and we comprehend everything with us as the centre. Else, there's no reason to hold such beliefs in earnest.  

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2 Mar 2007

Lethal Weapon

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:36pm

Copy of an ad for a Medical clinic in Haryana, where female foeticide is on the up: "better 500 rupees now [for an abortion] rather than 50,000 rupees later [for a dowry]".

Brilliant? Disgusting? Creative? Irresponsible?

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2 Mar 2007

Statesman and His Curse

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:22pm

Winston Churchill, while opposing the bill to grant independence to India introduced by Clement Atlee in the British House of Commons: "Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread shall escape taxation; only the air will be free..."

- (Courtesy, M)

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25 Feb 2007

Mea Culpa

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:12am

"That meeting changed my life", the cab driver remarked, recounting his decision to consult an astrologer and how that chap's predictions and advice helped change his and his family's fortunes for the better. He also changed his daughter's name as per the astrologer's suggestion. "She has been doing better at studies ever since", he added. I admired his confidence but also wondered why delusions persist. It's easy to live with delusions and that's one of the benefits of abdication of reason.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Somehow, the wisdom of Cassius (Ref: Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare) never got passed on. Incredible developments in science and appreciable growth in awareness of scientific thinking notwithstanding, astrology seems to have loyalists by the million. It is perplexing how superstitions from pre-scientific times have prevailed and continue to have a hold on human psyche. Yet, the reasons are not tough to guess - such beliefs add to the feel-good factor and convince humans that they are part of the grand scheme of things. Neither is it tough to observe how this obsession sustains - majority don't study science either in earnest or depth, so they take any junk that makes the grand scheme look grander and comes with words energy, force, cosmos, etc thrown in. If a few famous people endorse the idea, it becomes even more popular.

There's more disagreement than agreement among astrologers as regards a simple and measurable parameter, the time of birth. Let's not even talk about more complex parameters. Despite considerable differences among experts themselves, astrology continues to lure multitudes.  

The signs of the zodiac and the tons of garbage that comes about those are very prevalent. First, the signs appear wholly arbitrary and could be nothing more than imagination. There's no logic behind why a set of stars should be connected to form a particular sign. Depending on your knowledge of symbols and objects, you can connect the dots in any way you like to form any shape that appeals to you. Further, this assumes, most illogically, that it's all a two-dimensional canvas out there. If you really connect the dots, the shape would nowhere be similar to the one that the zodiac suggests, for it neglects the speed of light and relative speeds and positions of the stars. For all one knows, a couple of stars may have been dead centuries ago. By adopting the two-dimensional model, it wholly overlooks the fourth dimension - that of space-time. Two-dimensional model works fine for spotting stars and planets, but that's about it. Finding the relative position of a star is a tad more complex than that, and astronomy addresses this fine.

Forecast goes along with signs, and generates good business every year. Let's take a simple forecast: "This week is going to be decisive. A task might prove testing but you will handle it with your characteristic finesse. A surprise visit of an old friend would invoke nostalgia. Put moderation behind and indulge in the callings of your romantic self." This will apply equally to any goddamn person on the planet. All forecasts sound nice because they appeal to one's emotions and self-esteem. And because they use all vague words, interpretation is always open. Yet, millions fall for it!

Although western astrology has come to appreciate the divide between sign and constellation, yet it goes wrong with descriptions. The characteristics associated with these signs are mapped to the shapes and names of objects. So, interchange the names of Mars and Saturn and your personality traits would change! Lows and highs of one's emotions are correlated to energy, a definite term in science. And bullshit becomes appealing stuff. (A friend rightly pointed that energy is a scalar, so quoting it in terms of negative and positive is sheer nonsense.) 

The whole conception seems to have never moved beyond Newtonian mechanics. They still explain it in terms of gravitational force, which is just a mathematical fiction. Consider the concept of warped space-time and it'll challenge astrology's fundamental premises. One has conveniently assumed that every object out there is similar to Earth in form and behaviour. The kind of matter that we are familiar with, but know very little about, forms just 4% of the universe. We know nought about the remaining 96%, of which 21% is cold, dark matter and 75% is cold, mysterious and dark energy. Drawing conclusions without having complete and right knowledge is dangerous.

There's much talk about electromagnetic radiation and its effects. This goes against the fact that Earth's magnetic shield acts as an armour and deflects all charged particles from space. It deflects the most powerful solar wind, forget about radiation from objects light-years farther than the Sun! Not that the radiation doesn't penetrate, but it's very negligible. There's a lot of difference between what is possible in theory and what happens in actuality. The radiation emanated from the bulb in one's room is many times more powerful for the chap than that he is hit upon from a star. A tsunami happens just two-thousand miles away and it has zero effect on me, and someone tells me that position of a select few objects in space affects my personality and life! How more ridiculous can things get than this?

Mars, our immediate neighbour, doesn't have an intrinsic magnetic field as Earth does. Very little is known about other celestial objects. The relation between Moon and tides is a simple phenomenon, and the association of "lunatic" with full-moon is a clear example of selective thinking. Nothing more. The correlation that has been found is nothing better than what chance would suggest. And correlation doesn't imply causality.

A common defence is that there are phenomena that science cannot explain. No denying this. Nevertheless, it's absurd to hold something as credible and definitive just because science cannot refute it. Russell deplored that "Although we are taught the Copernican astronomy in our textbooks, it has not yet penetrated to our religion or our morals, and has not even succeeded in destroying belief in astrology". Freud banished astrology and all other occult disciplines. Vivekananda opined, "Astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of a weak mind; therefore as soon as they are becoming prominent in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food and rest".

Regardless of all that, it's megalomaniacal to believe that celestial phenomena affect our fucken lives. Affect they do, for we are very much a part of the universe, but there's a clear limit to what can and what cannot affect us, and, importantly, in what way. It's the bent for believing in conspiracy theories, coupled with insecurity, that compels people to think that things exist for a purpose. As a result, belief derives more fuel and becomes stronger with time. Hence, so many takers for astrology, God, ghosts, vaastu, hell, heaven, etc. Of course, one can take any stand on murder, reincarnation, adultery, prostitution, justice, etc and it's nobody's business to ask him for explanation. However, these belief systems get passed on, and that's the real danger. It, then, is not wrong to sit back and reflect. 

Belief defies logic; even twenty hours of discussion cannot undo twenty years of conditioning. It's next to impossible to make a fundamentalist see the flaw in his perspective. Try questioning the stand of a chap as regards his belief in astrology, and he'd dismiss all explanations simply by saying, a la the classic philosopher's joke, "That's what you think". All discussion is futile beyond that point.

The choice is always unto the individual - whether to live easy and with clarity, or colour everything with attractive delusions and carry tons of useless baggage in the brains.

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3 Feb 2007

India Poised

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:01pm

For the past couple of years, one has been hearing a lot about India being up and ready to become an economic superpower, the 9% growth rate and how it means a better India. India ranks 10th in the country brand index 2006 (source: Futurebrand), FDI is on the rise and more cities are getting wired. Total trade in goods and services has leapt to 45% of GDP, from 17% in 1990. Behind the euphoria and hype, however, the real picture continues to be bleak. Majority, though, are content to buy the optimistic speculations by media and push reality below the carpet. Some important facts (courtesy, The Economist)  that should help us appreciate the status quo better and more objectively:

What media don't tell
A recent study from Goldman Sachs, which forecast that India could sustain 8% growth until 2020, was widely trumpeted in Indian newspapers. However, the bank's report clearly stated that this would require better education, labour market reforms and less red tape. Oddly, most newspapers failed to mention that.

India v China
They point to new mobile-phone subscriptions, which are running at a higher monthly rate than in China, as evidence of their economy's vigour and modernity. But look again. Perhaps the only thing really growing faster in India than China is hype.

India spends 4% of its GDP on infrastructure investment, compared with China's 9%. In absolute dollar terms, China spends seven times as much on its infrastructure.

The total deficit is closer to 8% of GDP, the biggest among the main emerging economies. India also has the highest ratio of public debt to GDP, at 80%.

The road taken
Recent visitors to Delhi were greeted by a poster campaign by The Times of India announcing

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31 Jan 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:20pm

100 off 76 balls. Another gem of an innings from the master bastman. 41st one-day hundred, 30th in a winning cause.

For all those who've been dismissing him and asking questions about his form, this should be an eye-opener: Leave Tendulkar Alone. 

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27 Jan 2007

Great Expectations

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:41pm

If one can sit back and pay fleeting attention, the drama that unfolds on the world's stage is very enjoyable. The same shit happens again and again and you wonder if the characters have the capacity to learn from experiences at all. Insanity fuels the situations and mediocrity shapes the script. A few samples:

1.Members of Blank Noise chose Brigade Road, Bangalore, last Sunday, to implement their latest project as a part of their campaign against eve-teasing. These girls would stand at strategic locations on the road and stare at male passersby. If a chap construes that as some encouraging signal and approaches the girl, rest of her friends would join her and collectively stare at the chap to unsettle him, so to make him - by their logic - realise how uncomfortable girls feel when they are ogled at. Adam-teasing to counter and eliminate eve-teasing! I don't endorse male chaivinism, but I don't buy female chauvinism either. To condemn oppression of women is fine, but to suggest that all men are bastards and compulsive perverts is certainly ridiculous.

A group of staunch feminists, with zero understanding of human behaviour, come together and believe that they can upstage male-female equation by some stupid campaigns! Males are programmed to court and seek mates; so far as evolution process is concerned, penning poetry to woo a woman is at the same level as ogling at her is. The associations that we give to each of these are our own conventions, based on our cultural background. As long as the chap respects the woman's decisions and preferences, it's insensible to read too much into his gestures. When he obstinately sticks to his preferences and demands the woman to oblige, the level of offence is same whether he passes the message with his unblinking stare or a beautiful poem.

That aside, there's always a small percentage of people who cross lines, no matter what. Make all the people in the world into cops and you will still have crimes. Practise adam-teasing for two centuries and you will still have eve-teasing. It's absurd to draw conclusions from specific cases and pass them as generalisations. Men take as much humiliation in this world as women do. To look at it all with a skewed perspective and expect preferential treatment is sheer rubbish. Eve-teasing is just a facet of a deeper problem - that of disrespect for other person's space and freedom. To consider it exclusively won't help anything. It's like trying to curb murder and believing that you are curbing all forms of crime.   

2.Shilpa Shetty and her Big Brother! I still don't get why there was that much fuss. When you volunteer to be part of a farcical, nasty reality show (among other things, I don't understand what they mean by that), and have the choice to walk out if you can't take it any more, why do you project as if you are being exploited? She passes some blatant remarks against you, your race and your country, you have the freedom to give it back to her. It's not a bilateral meet between Britain and India, damn it! It's just a fucken circus for the idiot box and it's between you and her. Keep it at that. Media thought otherwise and made it an unnecessary political issue.

Every country, every group, without exception, is racist. It's only when there's a reference to color that we seem to infer the remark or gesture as racist. Discrimination is rampant everywhere. Every damn country, every damn group is racist. Before spicing up the story and jumping to conclusions, it'd do good if media spare some time for introspection. Racism is as rife in India as it is in Britain. Limit such issues to gossip columns in magazines, give the dame her crores, switch off the cameras and kill the fucken Big Brother. In celebrity-obsessed cultures, such shows and fuss do more harm than a decade of addiction to pornography does.

3.Bangalore is content with gloss and hype, and a riot is among the last things to happen here. A few days back, however, a pro-Saddam rally, led by a few politicians, almost effected a riot. Normalcy returned in no time, but only after loss of a life, injuries to many, unrest at a few places and much damage to property. It was nothing to do with Saddam or Bush or any noble idealism, but a gamble made for political interests. Coming after nearly a month after Saddam's execution, the rally happened a couple of days before a religious procession was to be. It succeeded in its mission, in that the unrest it effected was enough to cut short the procession and render it ineffective.

I don't know how effective rallies are, but if it comes to that, I can understand the objectives of an anti-Bush rally. But a pro-Saddam rally? In India? Bush is a first-rate criminal, but Saddam was a despot. Is your complaint against his execution? But when you say a pro-Saddam rally, it doesn't suggest you are protesting the execution, but that Saddam was a good man and was meted out injustice. Effectively, you are saying despot is a good man! That such a rally was led by politicians and was approved of by the authorities concerned is, to my mind, a blatant exploitation of power and another kick on the common man's butt. The blessings of democary! Let's, then, do away with Gandhis, Tagores, pacifism from the school syllabi and let's study Saddams, Hitlers, and their heroic deeds. Politicians and their fucken games! But then in a country where you can lure people to vote for you just by supplying a packet each of chicken biryani and cheap liquor, will politics ever get better than this?

Afzal should certainly be hanged. For making fiasco of a great opportunity to eliminate the most heinous species on the planet.

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---

20 Jan 2007

Of Taxing Bondage

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:56pm

Questioning the inevitability of the inevitables is an engaging business. Of the two inevitables - taxes and death - the latter's mystery seems easier to comprehend. As regards the former, I simply don't get why it exists.

There's the State, there are individuals and there are companies. Individuals and companies pay tax to the State on the income they earn, and everyone share the spoils. The higher the employment rate, the richer the State becomes and finds it easier to govern the millions. Fair enough till this point. The moment one starts tracking where his rupee is going to and how it is used, things get vague.

An individual pays tax on the income he earns (goes directly to State), on every product he buys (goes directly to companies), and on every service he avails of (goes partly to companies and State). I'm told the tax he pays is used by State for providing better security and comfort for people. So, if he earns X, pays Y% of X as tax, he and his countrymen get better roads, cables, army, water, electricity facilities and other stuff.

State encourages him to invest in order to save a part of the Y% he pays as tax. Sounds good. But the State isn't so generous. If his income exceeds a certain something, investments don't help save tax further, because the State has progressive tax system in place. Besides, the investments have to be a considerable part of the remaining amount to be counted against the tax paid. So, the chap invests from the income that is exempt from tax in order to cut tax by only a negligible margin.

Paying tax is mandatory for all. On paper. If you are affluent or powerful, you evade tax and nobody can do anything. Those who chant Mera Bharat Mahaan might dismiss this, but, sadly for them, the data support the statement and data don't lie. The poor don't have enough income to pay tax anyways, so it's the middle group that takes the most burden. According to theory, and assuming the State considers everyone as equal, the infrastructure should be provided equally among all. Reality doesn't reflect an iota of this. In every city, there are posh areas. In these areas where majority evade tax, roads are absolutely great, any repairs are attended to with great alacrity and care, electricity hardly goes down, and traffic jams - rare occurrence on these roads - are cleared within minutes. In other areas where majority sincerely pay tax, life is a toil.

In Mumbai city alone, they collect Rs.60000 crores as tax every year. The amount spent is only Rs.20000 crores. So, they save Rs.40000 crores every year from one city. Given that they collect from all places across the country and that they have been doing this for decades, I wonder where all the amount that they haven't spent has gone to. Why doesn't the income-tax department show its annual general statement? If a tax-payer is a stakeholder in State, is it not his right to know where his money is going to? If the State makes it mandatory for all public limited companies to share annual general statements with public, why does it not practise this itself? There are many nations - money economies at that - that don't have income-tax policy and yet are doing absolutely fine, economically and otherwise. Why can't India do that? (Without doubt, there will be theories that explain why it works in those nations and why it isn't feasible in India, but theories just get stronger with time. Change the practice, and theories can be framed around that. No big deal.)

State corners the individual by appealing to his emotions - it associates paying tax to responsibility (another equally popular practice thus promoted is that of exercising your franchise). If you evade tax, you are an irresponsible citizen. The affluent have better incentives to preserve, so they kick responsibility on its face. For the non-affluent, these tags and labels matter, so they derive pride from sincerely preserving these! Virtue is a poor man's Mercedes. Being responsible - without even questioning how true it is - is almost a compulsive obsession with them. And the State continues to exploit. Vicious circle indeed.

Being an utter failure in comprehending the logic of the concept apart, I find the association of the deed with responsibility as an act of mockery by State. If State tells me, "Pay tax or risk imprisonment or, worse, death", I'd find it more honest. Take out the goddamn label responsibility from the equation.

I subject the better part of this damn life to a drab exercise called earning livelihood (of course, this is voluntary so I cannot blame State for this) and pay a part of what I earn to State. I pay Y% of X directly, and then Z% of every damn rupee that I spend of the remaining indirectly as tax (to say nothing of the bribes). If you say Y% is being used for infrastructure development, why do you again ask me to pay road tax, water tax, this tax, that tax, etc? I buy a property from the income that I manage to save after paying tax, but you again ask me to pay property tax. I invest from the saved income in order to save tax, but you ask me to pay tax anyways when the investments turn to returns. I pay tax, live in a moderate house in a middle-group area and you spend that money to provide a better drive for that rich brat's Mercedes, to provide better power facilities to chaps living in centrally air-conditioned villas with power backups, to provide telephone, furniture, transport allowances - amounting to crores of rupees every month - to ministers? Worse of all, you spend a considerable part of that money on defence infrastructure and war! I don't believe in war, I condemn the dirty politics, I don't like to contribute to the extant chaos, but I end up doing the insane deed of contributing, although indirectly, to war and politics. Indeed, some responsible fucker I am!

Working in air-conditioned confines, worrying about next week's movie releases and upcoming travel plans, indulging in grand but pointless discussions about new world order, picking up clever methods of analyses, one learns to shut the door - with a simple act of justification - on some uncomfortable questions. The irony that he may be doing the very deed that he abhors is lost on one. State makes it easy for a citizen - if he joins police or the army, he justifies subterfuge, conspiracy and genocide even though he believes that killing is a sin. Similarly, State makes it easy for a citizen to justify the act of paying tax by making it mandatory. One gets the money after the tax has been deducted. "It's your duty to pay tax, so just pay it and get lost; how it is spent is none of your business", the State says. The chap obliges, trades pride for the deed and moves on. Reminds me of Tata Safari Dicor's copy, "Slavery is not dead. You've just stopped recognising it."

Taking it a little further, one finds good parallels between this practice by State and that by mafia. Mafia also works according to its own laws and demands that you abide by those. Mafia collects protection fee that is proportionate with the size of your business. If you don't pay, you will take the bullet. The fee they collect is spent on the welfare of both the gangs and your community. Once you part with your money, you don't have any right to question how they will spend it. You have to believe unconditionally that they will spend for everyone's benefit. Of course, the practices are not same (on paper, at least) as regards objectives and utility value, but technically there isn't much difference between the two.

Is there no way out?

Current Mood: Happy
Current Music: ---
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