Friday, 27 May 2011

Priapic Pastimes and Deceptive Deodorants


So, the government of India has now banned a sexy deodorant commercial. This, barely qualifies as news. And the fact that I read this on BBC's South Asia website is testament to the complete lack of earth shattering events occurring in Asia after Osama bin Laden's (rather accidental) death. So now, we are treated to the blazing rhetoric of (really sad) government employees, which is passed off as breaking (rather questionable) news. Parenthetical interruptions aside, they really have taken the Wild Stone commercials off air..and increased the popularity of WS deodorants, and sales, by a massive percentage.

Which is brilliant!! These defenders of morality,so called bastions of Indian culture, basically have no other work to do than sit down in front of the TV all day long, and surf through those salacious channels (MTv, FTv, Vtv, and other devilspawned entertainment) looking for the least trace of nudity or other objectionable sexual content. So these idiots, who happen to be highly paid government servants (no surprises there), can lay down the line.

Whatever happened to rights here. The right to free speech, free broadcasting, most importantly, free FUCK. I mean for God's sake, people in India fuck. Like crazy bunnies on steroids. WE did not attain a population of 1.3 billion by sitting on our haunches and waiting for storks. And yes, deodorants are meant to attract women. NOT cows/ pigs/ rodents. So yes, if a deo company implies that using their product would help a man get lucky then, it is a sensible , albeit lascivious ad.

And while the people who enforce such bans think pheromone is a species of mountain gorilla, and are busy trying to find which finger is lodged up their ass, most members of the (semi)knowledgeable public also support the enforcement of such bans. After all, they have kids at home, and kids are at an impressionable age, and of course they really shouldn't be taught about how they got made in the first place. And that really bad (really really embarrassing) SEX talk, that most families avoid. Not that it has anything to do with the sort of deodorant their father might have used anyway.

To face facts, Body Odour is a big turn off anyway...and deodorants have every right to be sexy. And there will always be government employees, with fancy sounding titles and designations, and characteristically, if not eponymously little work to be done.

Other than staring at overtly sexual ads for personal grooming products. And shaking their heads at a pair of boobs or legs, and going tch tch. And deciding that deodorants truly are the work of the devil.

And wondering about why they never got any, back in their time...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Mess-o-nomics


Now this thread was started off by an extremely friendly mess server at lunch today. While his friendliness was only surpassed by his garrulity, he did raise some very interesting points, on the economics of that lifeblood of engineering colleges everywhere, the mess. See, running a mess, on a day to day basis, is now fast becoming, economically unfeasible.

Now it may come as a surprise to you, but most mess workers are poor. Not in the BPL, <2200 kcal a day poor, but seriously, money wise, destitute. This is because the scope of earning any real money as a mess worker is severely limited. But, what is even more interesting is how the government now, is making a mess The calculation is a simple one. Now, the average mess charge for each student comes out to be around 1700 a month, for my mess. Which means, for an average of 100 people eating in that mess daily, the folks running the mess would be able to earn 170000 rupees a month. Now I think around 30% of that would be overhead and salary, and 2% profit, with the remaining 68% going into sourcing food, dishes, taxes(maybe), etc. So it's the 30% that we are concerned with anyhow.

30% works out to be around 51000 a month. And while mess workers are paid differently, according to a very complex hierarchy, we can assume two salary bands, one for the people who actually cook the food, and the other for the servers/cleaners etc. Lets assume that the people in the lower band earn 40% less than those in the higher band. That would leave 31,875 rupees for the higher paid workers, and 19,125 for the lower paid workers. Now there are about 5 workers responsible for cooking the food, and around 6 responsible for the cleaning and serving.

And this means, that while the maharajs or those cooking the food earn a fairly decent salary of 6,500 rupees a month, those responsible for the cleaning and menial chores, earn only 3,175. This would have been okay, except for the MNREGA, which gurantees employment to every individual, at Rs 120 a day, for 100 days. This works out to be 12000 for the entire period, or 3600 a month. Following this, many states have decided to increase their minimum salary requirements, and in those states the price of manual labour may reach 200 for a day's work. Which is an astronomical 6000 a month.

This means, that although the effort required is much less, there is a significant decrease in interest in mess labour. Most workers look at the money first, and work later, and as such, feel there is much more reward to be had in hard core manual labour. This results in a considerable shortage in mess labour, which, paradoxically reduces the profits of the mess, as it results in an increase in the diet charge, which in turn results in a reduction in consumers.

Another factor which has a direct impact on the mess is inflation. And while the diet charge cannot be increased beyond a particular limit, there is no such boundary for the price of vegetables. And although potatoes are the staple for all such messes, the ravages of untrammeled inflation have not left this vegetable untouched either.

This in turn results in the messes of our hostels turning unprofitable, which means there is now a real danger of a famine ripping across academia, which also means that students might suffer from debilitating hunger soon, with no solution in sight.

Not from a lack of food, food is still being produced, stored improperly in silos, and rotting away. Not from lack of food.

But from the lack of people to cook it for us.

Friday, 20 May 2011

On Writing

It may come as a shock to you, as it did to me, that most of the highest rated movies, on IMDb and elsewhere, have been written by one person. And have been dramatic shifts from that one man's staple writing genre. Maybe its the contrast that makes his shifts so successful, or maybe its an art that only manifests in a particular kind of novel. Whatever it is, this one man has contributed so significantly to popular culture in modern times that it is almost unimaginable to think that people might not know his name. But, then again, most don't. But most know the movies, some even know of the books on which they are based.

You see, I have read a not inconsiderable number of book in my rather short but significant life. And one name has cropped up very often. Stephen King. And while some people mistake him for Stephen Hawking(yeah, that physics guy in a wheelchair), it cannot be doubted that he is probably the most influential writer of modern times.

What has to be respected is that he is primarily a horror genre specialist. Of all of his books, 95% have been horror novels. His best, and probably most well known body of work, however, is from the remaining 5%. This is weird, because he is most definitely NOT a bad horror writer. It's just that when he finally manages to write about something other than blood curdling nonsensical zombie tales, his stories become, almost sublime. Here's a list, of my top rated Stephen King books of all time. Most of these books would be already familiar to you, but not as books. I, never got to see most of the spun off movies, and I didn't want to either, for fear of them not matching up to the book. Anyway, here goes:

1)Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
2)Dreamcatcher
3)The Green Mile
4)Pet Sematary
5)The Shining

The best short story, which I have not had the pleasure of reading, is one called Quitters Inc., which was later adapted, albeit loosely, into a movie directed by Anurag Kashyap, called No Smoking. And yes, the movie was pure nonsense. But it was the best sort of nonsense there is.

Entertaining.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How Powerless Are You?


The Indian Government's ambitious UID project has stalled. And no one would admit it if you asked them. A universal ID system is not only difficult in a country like India, it is next to impossible. This is why significant power, responsibility and sums of money have been given to the one man Nandan Nilekani, who can make it happen.

Except that he hasn't.

And because none of what he had promised has in fact turned out the way he wanted it to be, he has introduced a new scheme, called Aadhar, which on paper is brilliant. Aadhar is akin to a Social Security number, is completely voluntary, and is biometrically verified. And what this translates into, is that anyone, irrespective of whether or not they have a birth certificate or passport or residence, can have his own means of identification. This is a boon for the lower level working class of India, who have no access to any documents of any sort. This means they can now avail of banking, telephony and other services, with a simple card, issued once in their name.

Since it is biometrically verified, an Aadhar Card cannot be forged or stolen. It can also be issued at source, as all that needs to be checked are the person's fingerprints, photograph and name. If these are not present in the national database, they are then added, and the applicant becomes a bonafide recipient of an Aadhar card. All of this is so brilliant, that already, 4.3 million people are beneficiaries of the Aadhar cards, with half of them coming from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, home to lots of very poor farmers, and very rich software engineers. Future plans are very smart also, and include such niceties as mini ATMs, akin to a recharge shop associated with no frills bank accounts.

Except that none of this addresses the real issue. India is a country of over a billion people. Barely 1% have got any sort of UID or Aadhar card. Andd even after they do, if they do at all(it took 3 years for 1%, maybe another decade for 100%)...the question still remains, how do they decide their own fate.

The poor in India have very little power over their lives you see. The men governing them play on a chessboard too big for any individual to see. Most are restricted to the view of one square. A few can see a few moves ahead. But issuing a card, identification, and validity to Indians does not guarantee them what it should, power over their own lives.

It does not guarantee them what should have been guaranteed first and foremost in a democracy. It does not guarantee them Universal Suffrage.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Bhu-reau-cracy...and why the world's oldest city has its stupidest university


So yes, it is frustrating when you have to get a form signed by someone you don't know, in an office you know of by reputation, for a reason that you cannot be sure of, after filling up a form made up by God only knows whom...

It is even more frustrating when a million different people have to do the exact same thing, and the person processing the form works at the same speed as a sloth bear switching branches.

WHat once started out as a social occasion, has now evolved into a nightmare. In the 80s, standing in a queue was a pleasant experience. The weather was cooler, people were friendlier. YOu met people from other departments, they told you stories, you told them stories. There wasn't any exchange of phone numbers because no one had any phones then. But, if you really liked someone, you could exchange room numbers and class timings. Queues were nice, social gathering spots, and the clerks processing forms could take their own sweet time.

This speed and efficiency of work has been retained to this day. Surprisingly enough, the people who used to be social and friendly, the students, have now turned into an angry mob of restless brigands. While their contumely actions know no bounds, their shocking lack of respect to women and elders are most condemnable. The erstwhile punctiliousness of the student of the 80s, has now been consumed in an expedient flash of convenience. Lines and long queues are no longer convenient to anyone, and people get restless, even if they have to wait for a little while. THis is the era of instant gratification, and most people expect the same levels of efficiency from government servants as is demanded of them.

What needs to be done, will probably never be done. The system is so large, and so static, that it will probably never be changed. This means, that our college will continue to be as bureaucratic as ever.

You see, people in general, and government employees in particular, show a very high degree of resilience to any sort of change. Which makes it very tough to change anything.

Which means longer lines, more frustration, and a sort of Hell in a handbasket attitude which could shame Ozzy Osbourne. And the sort of flourishing bureaucracy which employs two clerks to do the work of one, and two peons to fetch them tea.

Those Devious Defenders of Indian Decency


Okay, so all this started when I opened up google news one morning, in order to refresh my mind with the latest inanity prevalent in the world. I found something to interest me, in one rather gaudy flashing link, which informed me that there was a very very lascivious sex scandal afoot, involving the Goddess of wealth Lakshmi, and an Australian bikini.

Now, it did not behove me to take such a prurient interest in matters involving the Hindu Religion and Aussie bathing garments, however, as I was pretty free of work, and as there was absolutely no possibility of me getting any action in the near future, I decided to excercise my meta phalanges, and proceeded to click on the aforementioned link.

You can imagine my disappointment when I found that it was not in fact the Goddess Lakshmi wearing a bikini, but an Aussie model. And strangely enough the site had zoomed in on her ass crack, which rather unfortunately coincided with the position of the deity's face. For a moment I felt temporally disaligned, and tried to process the wealth of visual information presented to me. After I had managed to do this, I proceeded to scroll down to the next paragraph of the article.

Of course, the next image was a slightly more familiar one. That of people wearing saffron scarves, and burning the flag of Australia. And most probably shouthing things like "Those Aussie bastards!!"

And these people are the ones whom my blog is dedicated to. I mean, they are everywhere these days!! And, I, for one, am thankful. I mean, they are pretty much the only reason my Hindutva honour cannot be touched, and why I can sleep soundly, secure in my Hindutva-ness. They are the ones who provide that much needed security to Hindus worldwide. They are the bastions of morality, the protectors of common decency.

These people are so concerned about the prevalence of immorality in contemporary Indian society that they take it upon themselves to kick the shit out of anyone who is improperly dressed, or engaged in a show of public affection. Because come on...no one wants to see a thigh or a boob flash. And no one wants to watch a hot couple get it on, on a park bench. These things are against Indian Values.

Which brings us to that vague and rather nebulous term, INDIAN VALUES. No one knows what they are, most are freely editable to suit the needs of so and so Political Parties. One thing which is definitely not an Indian value is SEX. According to an official spokesperson for the so called Protectors of the Indian Values(yes they have spokespeople, PR reps, and surveys too, who doesn't these days), sex does not exist. And therefore we have solved one big problem facing our society today, that of over population.

Yes, China needed laws against childbirth, we just decided to get rid of sex. Officially, sex does not happen in this country. Which is brilliant. Thanks to those righteous defenders of the Indian Values system.

And while most of these people were out in the streets, chanting names and condemning the Aussies, you'd be surprised at how many volunteer for social service in urban slums and poor rural areas. And while it is really easy to defend the Indian Values, what is not easy is to remove something even more quintessentially Indian.

Indian Poverty.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Free and Easy

"There's no such thing as a free lunch" -English Idiom

AS most people who have ever had to stay in a summer hostel in their college would tell you, there's absolutely no such thing as a free lunch. Summer hostellers are usually left to their own devices when it comes to such prandial needs. And as such, the aforementioned idiom has come to signify the lack of any favours in this world at present. Succinctly, there is no way the universe would just let you do stuff, wihtout exacting its price in return. But, there are exceptions. And this is where we come into the realm of specifics, instead of idle bullshit. You see, knowledge, most of us would agree, should be freely and easily accessible. Because knowledge is just that. Free.

The first person to light a fire did not charge his compatriots 2 bucks to come and warm their food on it, or 5 bucks to take it away on a stick of his own. The only reason we know about such things as why stars twinkle and why a lightbulb glows is because people with knowledge have been kind enough not to view their knowledge as marketable assets.

What has changed now, however, is that certain MBA type people dressed in fancy suits and armed with terminologies such as a SWOT analysis and ARPU have decided that if everything from gold to rocks has a price, knowledge should have its own too.

This is the reason why online journals are priced at $65, ad ebooks are priced at $325 a copy. Most laptops in this country are worth about a journal and an ebook combined. And that is not surprising, since this is for all intents and purposes a third world country with a very lopsided PPP ratio. But even in suhc advanced countries as the US and Germany, you could easily get a laptop for $500. Which makes the guy who bought the aforementioned ebook and journal look like a complete idiot.

Everywhere you look, you get to see such unmitigated examples of avarice, that used to be restricted to such things as oil and ladies handbags. What is incredibly pernicious, is that it has crept into the knowledge trade as well. Big, fucking huge corporations are now responsible for storing half of all the research data created by scientists all around the world. These scientists are so fucking dumb, they think its an honour to be published in so and so international mag. The honour, and money, is restricted to the company that publishes the international mag, and shows a healthy balance sheet to back it up. There are no associated costs. hell they don't even print on paper anymore, as part of a concerted effort to go green(dollars).

In the face of it all, we have Wikipedia. That massive middle finger to all sorts of knowledge profiteering and scientific journal publishing. Companies like Microsoft still maintain that Wikipedia isn't accurate enough, or that the articles aren't well written enough, and then offer you an online subscription to the Britannica Encyclopedia at a mere $2 a month, less than it costs to watch porn.

Unfortunately for them, porn is often a bigger draw...and Wikipedia will always stay free.