Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Big Brother is Watching You: Corporate Hubris in the US of A

Well, not exactly. But if you are living in the US of A, then odds are, a big brother of some sort knows everything about you; he knows whether you pay your loans on time, he knows whether you drive properly, he knows whether you are a sex offender; he knows who you’ve been talking to on the phone….. Big brothers are doing everything except literally watching you.

In my opinion, a human being should be forgiven for committing a minor mistake. We’re all people. We make mistakes. But what the American corporations are doing is entirely erasing that “forgiveness” safety-net that human beings, (in my opinion) are entitled to.

Take for instance the “credit score check” which happens whenever you want to take a loan, or get a cell-phone, get a credit card, buy a car – a process taken for granted by the hapless residents. The efficient are rewarded; the inefficient (those who forget to or cannot pay their loan on time) – they are charged steep premiums. Government does not impose controls; corporations do, in the US of A. But to the average person, it is all the same. Their life is under control, under constant supervision – the people are no better off than the inhabitants of Rwanda or Somalia – under the shadow of the militias in power. Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration, but I do hope my point is appreciated.

The other day, I went to the Social Security office and filled out my social security application form. (Us international students: we don’t get it when we were born) The following was written on the same: “You have a right to deny us your personal information. However, if you do, you shall not be allowed to get paid for your work in this country.”. It’s like god (the entity that some people believe is “responsible” for all life on earth. In the extremely unlikely event that he does exist, I am sure he is feeling pretty silly, looking at how his creations turned out!) saying “You can stop breathing anytime you want. You might not live, but that is entirely up to you”.

And you cannot speak out against corporations here: defamation suits will follow. And the money-might of these corporations more or less ensures that very, very few people actually have the financial and mental strength to withstand the millions of court-room appearances that this would entail.

And don’t let me even get started on the copy-right and patent terrorism. Suppose you invent something new. It’s not a time to celebrate; it’s a time to mourn. For surely, within the equivocal, un-understandable verbosity that lies filed within the US patent office, lies something or the other that can be interpreted to sound very similar to what you would have just invented. Law suits from corporations will follow.

This is the philosophy of the US of A. This is indeed a free country; if you pay your bills on time; if you do not stand in the way of a bad driver on the road; if you do not fall ill, etc. Land of the free, or a corporate dictatorship?

The author is an idiot. He has not really experienced any such dictatorship, but he loves to speculate. The author believes he is like Wodehouse’s Alaric, the Duke of Dunstable, who’s passion is writing acerbic letters to the editor of “The Times” (presumably) in those wonderful Blandings Castle Stories.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


2061 AD. The Americans are at it with the Chinese. Both countries wanted the good life; Mother Earth could just not take it anymore. The Chinese had been growing at an astronomical 9% every year since 1979 – it did not take them long to give the Americans a run for their money in the battle for oil and water. The Indians were left far behind: 9% is way more than 7%, especially when compounded.

The Average Chinese got fatter; obesity became a problem – it was indeed a problem of plenty. The Chinese started to demand what the American demands now: high quality junk food; massive sales with prices marked down (after a massive mark-up earlier); a culture governed by little pieces of paper and plastic cards – and fingerprints and dna.

The convenience driven modern society started to attach DNA to bank accounts. Money could be withdrawn only if you had the right DNA on you. This would also require the correct finger-print, making the entire process of forgery very difficult, and the process of withdrawing cash a tremendous hassle. Some firms tried doing away with the finger-print verification, but that led to lots of barbers and spouses being sued.

Let us stop the digression. Let’s talk about what we set out wanting to talk about. Wars.

President Heorhe Shrub of the United States was a descendant of Bobby Fischer. Premier Hau Taul ( is a China-Man) of China carried a computer with the power of deep-blue in his shirt pocket. The Indian Prime Minister, Venkaraman Karim-Patel was born in Vijaywada, a southern city (medium sized) of 30 million. He was born into a middle class family. His family saw that he was an exceptionally talented chess Player – and made him skip school to explore the wonderful world of chess. Some 900,000 other children from Vijaywada went to a crammery (where they were made to memorize each and every game of chess ever played between 2 human beings), 10,000 made it to the Indian Institute of Chess, and twelve made it to the National Chess Institute. And finally, some 20 students from all over India played amongst themselves to determine the new Prime Minister of India.

Somewhere in 2020, people decided that war was pretty pointless. By 2015, the United States army stopped recruiting new marines: they had robots to do all the dirty fighting anyway! They started to pump more money into manufacturing new robots to kill people. The Chinese government had always been working on robots to fight and kill people. The Americans, on realizing that all their investment in new robots (that could kill) was pointless (as their enemies also had robots too), decided that enough was enough. The American corporations had to write of all the robots as a big loss (attempts were made of selling them as butlers – until some robots malfunctioned and shot their owners dead instead.)

The American Government (under pressure from loss making American corporations) got the two and a quarter main powers in the world: Itself, China and India to a round table conference in India. In the historic declaration (the Bhatinda Accord), it was decided that war be abolished, since it was no longer economically viable. A study conducted jointly by University of Chicago, Tsinghua University and Kanpur Dehat University was cited – showing a correlation between the military might of a country and the number of chess victories in a year. Chess was accepted as the new “war”. The premier of each nation would play chess against the premier of the nation they were warring against.

Nuclear Weapons were dumped on Mars. The Martians would never have a chance. They would blow themselves up long before evolving. Just like we almost did.

An intriguing side effect (which no one foresaw) was the re-emergence of Russia as a world power. Those unethical bastards probably cloned Kramnik. And the American corporates- curse them - they sell plastic chess sets made in India and China all around the world.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What's wrong with populism?

It is quite familiar to hear these cynical observations muttered by "educated" Indians.

"Politicians are only worried about votes".

"God save this country from populism".

Tell me, as a democracy, would you not expect a government to be populist? Would you expect a government to do what the people do not want? My friends, we are India, not China.

It is indeed spell-bindingly obvious that Arjun Singh has a political axe to grind with the reservation card. And the question I raise here is: if the idea of caste based reservations would have full-fledged support from the masses, why was is not implemented earlier? Was it not a travesty of democracy that something that has had so much support from the masses was not implemented? Wasn't the government guilty of not implementing this earlier, when the popular mandate out these was to implement it?

I feel proud that the hitherto downtrodden are benifitting from reservation; and that we're achieving 8% growth rate despite the reservation. (The reservation in IITs is more or less cosmetic. All of us IITians know that IIT is a decrepit system which churns out mediocre management graduates in the guise of engineers. Look at all the companies recruiting on campus. Citi Financial. KPMG. McKinsey. Stan-Chart. Capital-One. BCG. The only saving grace is the quality of the post graduate research at IIT, which is as good at it gets in India.)

I would like the commend the government in pursuing the reservation issue, despite negative coverage from the press. Populism is good. If you're not a populist, the people will vote you out. You're the masses' servant, not the rich man's. True meritocracy will result only when the poor are given a level playing field.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Who is the most popular human being on earth? Interesting question.

Let's rule out any Hollywood actor: their popularity is very limited (to the developed world)... and there's way too many of them, so different people have different favorites.

Let's rule out anyone in the west, actually. There' s way too less people in the western world. If the question were "Which person's popularity can be transalated into the most money due to ticket sales and endorsements?", then perhaps western celebs would stand a chance. But not as things are right now.

So, of course, the possibilities are essentially either Chinese or Indian celebs ... with billion plus people. I have a gut feeling that the most popular person in the world is Sachin Tendulkar. I will make my case in the following paragraphs.

What do a billion people have in common in India? They do not have a common culture: the culture of the North-east differs from the south, the culture of the east and the west is different. Hinduism? There are more variations within Hinduism in India than there are between different religions at other places!

Democracy? Yes indeed; but the people of the North have never heard of Karunanidhi, the people of the west have never heard of Budhadeb Bhattacharya. Hindi Films? The big B might have more than a 300 million loyal fans (more than the productive population of the USA) but the average Apparao down south would have a tough time placing him.

Cricket is the only thing that unites India's diversity. India's massive talent pool of cricket is (often cruelly) refined and refined again into an elite squad: the men in Blue. And Sachin Tendulkar is the formost and the bluest of them all. A man who's antics on the field make many an Indian's heart beat faster. A person who drives bowlers to utter disarray on his day. A humble genius.

For he carries the hopes and aspirations of 1 billion people. He is among the few things that the people of this entire mass of people actually hold close to their heart.

And part of the problem is that. There's enough talent in India to produce 20 Sachin Tendulkar. If we search deep enough we will find a fast bowler that will put Shohaib Akthar to shame. A spinner who will spin 180 degrees! So, all the people of India look at Sachin - perhaps because they have no one else to look up to.

I'm not too sure about China, but I'm sure you see that Sachin has a strong case to be crowned "most popular man on earth".

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fire the Bastards

Striking doctors, no matter how "noble" the cause of their strike might be, should be tried for murder. Emergency health-care should be "strike-proof". Doctors do not make any point by going on strike. They should just be fired for going on strike, for they have put a lot of patients in the line of danger. The nation-dwellers cannot be hijacked by a few selfish personal agendas.

I commend the government for the strong stance that it has taken about these jokers going on strike. Issuing a show-cause notice is a strong move. A move that has the following written boldy upon it: the high and mighty have gradually stopped to wield controlling political power. Power lies with the people. It is a happy day for democracy.

For the real India that is going to take over the world (along with China and the U.S) is essentially not you and me. We're the rich, we're English educated. We, for all practical purposes constitute a state the size of Goa with an American style standard of living. I'm talking about the rest of India. The poor auto-walla in Chennai, the rickshaw driver in Kanpur, the paddy farmer in Bihar, the cotton farmer in Maharashtra, the fisherman of Bengal, the Mumbai slum dweller, the Andhra peasant, the servant maid in Delhi, to name a few. These are the 950 million faces that live modest lives right now, that might live better tomorrow. These are the people who will install air-conditioners in their houses in the near future. These are the people that will purchase pesonal computers. That will shop in large department stores, drive automobiles. (!*)

Any scientifically executed move to awaken this massive middle class is welcome; an intellegent reservation policy, perhaps.

The day that the rest of India starts demanding what the American takes for granted right now is the day that India takes over the world. Not the day that the emergency care doctor goes on strike. That would be the day that he deserves to be fired and tried for murder.

I do believe that patriotism is another divisive ideology like religion, and oppose it in principle. But pragmatism makes me accept patriotism. I do make India-specific allusions here, because I am famililar with issues affecting the sub-continent. In principle I would love to dedicate my life to work that could uplift humanity in general, but that would sound too arrogant.

(!*) The planet does not have enough resources to support an American Style for everyone. Adam Smith's invisible hand will ensure that certian compromises are made; energy efficiency measures are incorporated - and essentially, gas-guzzlers are driven to extinction. But that's a different story altogether. A story that would make interesting reading. Perhaps, I could post bits of it in the future?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reservations: Not such a massive evil?

Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.

I'm sorry, Mr. Arjun Singh. I'm sorry I had you possesed by Hitler. I'm sorry I made your hand bleed. I'm sorry I made you say Behe? !hod. I've just read some literature (of sorts) about the Caste debate in India .. and I can see your line of thought (though not quite agree with it).

Firstly, I'll tell you what I think is absolutely wrong with it: caste! Caste has been the number-one society destroyer that has plagued Hinduism (my parents' "religion") since times immemorial. By using caste as a critereon for reservation, all you are doing is re-ingniting those age-old sentiments of casteism. You are turning an oblivious eye to the real factor: poverty. But that's not your fault. Caste based reservations were around for quite some time.

A better system of affirmative action would assure seats to the poor: to those who need aid - and would not deny aid to a poor person from a so-called "upper caste". Rich "lower-caste" people should not be in a position to avail these freebies. But I can see the impracticalities associated with such a legislation, prominent among them being children saying "Damn, it dad! If you were not so rich, I would have been at IIT".

I will have to, therefore grudgingly accept the "populist" solution: that of caste-based reservations: purely because there is absolutely no other option. Unfairness to a handful of poor upper class people is better than unfairness to the infinitely larger lower class. O' great constitution writers, you were more or less right.

There's 24% of SC/STs in India. They have have an almost equal 22.5 reservation. They are so poor that they need all the upliftment that they can get. Then come the OBCs, with 50% of the population. They are marginally better off; they do not need so much "upliftment" as the SC/STs, and they have to do with 27% of the reservation; not 50%.

In an Ideal India later, where everyone is really equal, the so-called OBCs should constitute roughly 50% of the seats in educational institutions. Reservations go meaningless in the future.

This is a murky problem; there is more to it than meets the eye. Ostensibly, denying opportunities to the meritorious might seem criminal; might seem cruel. But one needs to overcome one's prejudices and perfrom an unbiased analysis of the same. These measures might very well cut down our current growth-rate in the short run, but they might go a long way in averting a workers' revoltuion in our country.

There lies a lot of talent in that hitherto undiscovered "backward" mass of under-acheiveing humans in India. Tapping into this potential is like tapping into a half of undiscovered India. Who knows? Maybe within those undiscovered masses lie the new Sachin Tendulkar, the new Homi Bhaba, and what the hell - the new Albert Einstien?

Why is it that these issues are raised only during elections? The fact that politicians do not raise the reservation issue during non-election years essentially tells the people that they really don't care two hoots about social upliftment - but care only about votes ..... which is the way democracy is supposed to function ... intentions are of little value. Only results matter.

With these reservations, our country might very well grow faster in the long run.

He wants to take care of us

There is someone up in the sky,
who wants to look after you and I.
He hates to let things go wrong;
He wants to keep us happy and strong.

He would like to give us shelter from the rain,
He craves to protect us from anguish and pain.
And He desires to protect the coast from the wave,
and from the mighty hurricane.

He wants no violence on his name,
Peace is his method, his aim!
He is the god that We beleive in;
Utter incompetence, his only sin.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


There was once a little village -
Long before this day and age.
And within that lived a tribe;
It raised animals to survive.

Let's start with the family of Manmohan Singh,
He raised cows for a living.
Near his sedate and slow moving cow,
Bulls, his family would never allow.
To the calves, they would feed all the grass,
The milk bearing cows, they would starve.
The cows then started to perish-
The milk supply started to finish.

And then the clan of Jacques Chirac
Who made their life toiling with an ass.
The ass was to carry brick and stone-
To build many a happy home.
The ass, he would feed a lot daily,
Regardless of the work quality.
The ass started to work less and less,
But Chirac still kept feeling it in excess.

The weasel belonged to one Vladimir Putin,
Ostensibly, it looked famished and thin.
The weasel would smile at the dinos and the cows,
But would secretly snack on frozen chicken beside its house.
And eating the chicken gave it sharp teeth now,
It looks more the dragon it used to, less like a cow.
When it was a dragon, it had learnt,
How to breathe fire, how to get the village burnt.

And Hu Jintao had a fire breating dragon,
It was visible to no one.
He would sacrifice one from his family to the dragon every year.
His family would live in eternal fear.
Though the dragon would devour one every year,
Hu reckoned procreation was the cure.
Dragons can kill asses, can kill cows
And dinsoaurs too, if push came to shove.

George Bush had a pet called Fido,
a massive fire breathing dino.
The dino had everything cheap-
And therefore would just eat, eat and eat.
While a cow would just ruminate,
Fido would devour a little forest.
But there's no forest anymore now
Fido might just have to diet, you know.