Saturday, 27 August 2011

Of reading, and other habits


"We are a generation so obsessed with documenting our own thoughts, we very rarely pause to come up with new ones." -Facebook status message

It pays to be goal oriented in this world. Most people who do things are, obviously, preparing for some sort of entrance examinaiton on the subject. For example, if you take the trouble to read through the constitution of India(and why the hell would you?!), you are (obviously) preparing for the IAS. And if you are reading Businessworld one fine morning, you are most definitely in line for the CAT. With this, fascinating insight on human psychology, yours truly means to point out that your society has become so motivated, so singularly oriented, taht they would refuse to believe that anything might be done out of that single word, interest.

I mean, its all well and good to be interested in something, but that doesn't put food on your plate, fuck it man..I'm interested in dolphins and the aurora borealis, but that won't get me a job..is the common rallying cry these days. In this country today..EVERYONE is an engineer. PhD scholars are those idiots, who simply could not be engineers. Doctors are the sort of people who are required to treat engineeers. Entrepreneurs are failed engineers. And so on and so forth. So, if someone is interested in teaching high school kids, oh I dunno, maybe because it's a fun thing to do, he is condemned to a life of penury and ridicule.

This is stupid. We are supposed to be the generation that raised the bar. The information generation, the people who knew what to do and when to do it, and were not afraid of their convictions. Instead, we think that the best way to influence opinion is through facebook, the best mode of communication is through Gmail. And, our hobbies include(no matter what your CV might say) preparing for entrance examinations, misc. other competitive exams, job interviews and what not.

Look, the next time you feel like starting a revoltuion, how about doing it outside of facebook, and here's a revolutionary idea, the next time you want to read something, go ahead and read it, don't worry about the consequences, or whether it would help you clear that job interview. The next time you have an opinion, go and tell someone about it, and the next time you want to get heard, stand up and speak up.

The future of this country isn't going to be built on facebook and twitter. The future belongs to you, and what you do with it is upto you as long as it is in the common good. The next time you think about something, form your own opinion about it, instead of following someone's facebook status, do your own research.

This is your time, this is your place. Your life isn't meant to be a joint entrance examination. And we are all destined for bigger and better things.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Swindler's List

Now there are a couple of situations in life that warrant an inquisition into the deeper mechanics of chance. Is it possible there might be some divine being..whose sole pastime is playing dice, and subjecting us humans to the random foibles of that game? Or is it just some sort of ticker counter that counts a sort of pseudo luck score, and when you run out, decides to work in reverse. Either way, I landed at the airport here with little more than 800 rupees cash, after having succumbed to parvenu's syndrome, and blown all my hard earned cash on haleem and hash in Hyderabad(alliterations anyone?). And I proceeded to part with a majority of the aforementioned cash (to the gentleman at the prepaid taxi booth), I noticed a foreigner who was, well ,in the process of being swindled. Or, that's what I thought at the time.

You see, most Banarasis here know a smattering of English, something like, "You go..hundred rupees" and so on and so forth. This aids them to a great extent in the swindling process, as most foreigners have neither the need nor the vocabulary required for bargaining. However, this foreigner seemed different, she managed to wriggle out of a (rather obvious) setup, and get into some sort of a bargain. This bargain involved setting up with a taxi for 300 bucks, and as I was paying 680, you can understand me feeling a bit envious. The idea here was, that she had a much shorter distance to cover, than I did, as I had to get to the university which was at the other end of town. Little did I know that the taxi wallahs had come up with a nefarious scheme to maximise their profits.

Now this scheme, rather deviously involved the both of us sharing a taxi, until she got off, and me being, well roughly okay with that. Now the thing is, no such scheme can succeed without melodrama, platitudes, and an inevitable caving in a short while later. So, inevitably, she protested, and what not, most of it falling on deaf years, and after a while was bundled in with me. After taking in the finality of her plight, she decided nothing more was to be done, and smiled sweetly at me as if to say, " Don't take it personally, I just don't like sharing a taxi".

After a short while we got to chatting, and I found out she was not here for recreation, indeed very few single Iranian women are. She was here, more specifically, for a master's law degree. This was strange, and to compound it all, her law degree, the one you get at first, I don't think the term bachelor's applies to single women, was also from India. Osmania University, no less. I think she had made a bold choice coming to BHU, after all, it is in Varanasi, and Varanasi, as anyone will tell you, is no Hyderabad. Her choice, however, was motivated more along the lines of parsimony. Turns out, getting a degree here is far cheaper than in Hyderabad. The fees, the living expenses, are all taken care of here.

Now, this reaffirmed my opinion of most foreigners who come to Benaras not being, well shall we say, well heeled. But what intrigued me was that she would chance coming here all alone, in order to get a degree from a university with a turbulent past. But then again, Iran is not regarded as being the most placid of countries. So it made sense, in a very convoluted sort of way. In any case, foreigners, especially the more financially desperate ones, are made of sterner stuff. And as for swindlers, they had best improve their English, if they are to be as effective as they intend to be.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Murders and Accusations


It's merger time again. Some of the world's biggest companies get on the financial merry go round, and buy some companies that really should have been left well alone, and to themselves. The acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google and Skype by Microsoft has sparked off a whole new series of buyoffs, selloffs and general pandemonium. HP now wants to sell off its hardware business and get into software. It is prepared to pay 10 billion dollars to achieve the same. And this is from the largest personal computer manufacturer in the world, with over $130 billion in sales. Perhaps this is due to the higher margins available in software, and this has even been hinted by the top brass at HP. Assuming this to be true, we may conclude that companies invested heavily in software must be a lot more profitable than those invested in hardware or associated services.

And this is where we come into the tale of the two behemoths, Google and Microsoft.

There is a reason why Apple isn't even in on the picture, you see, for Apple is older, and currently bigger than either of the two. Apple has now become tremendously successful, after expanding its portfolio from the niche iMac, to the proletarian ipod. The battle now, is in between Microsoft and Google, lets say, and even here, it is David vs Goliath. For no matter what detractors say, Microsoft is clearly the larger of the two. Microsoft has a profit of $23 billion on revenues of 69 billion. Google comes a distant second, with an 8.5 billion profit on revenues of 26 bill. And google, is a software company looking to foray into hardware, which makes companies like HP look all the more tentative about their policies. Plus, Steve Jobs seems nowhere among the runners right now, and this translates to a certain Tim Cook, who did not have the best of first days at the helm of apple, struggling to find some flimsy thread of innovation in his company.

In truth, the highest form of work is intellectual work now, and while the great country of America has a tendency to reward truck drivers and construction workers, in India, we love our software engineers. This is where google scores, you see, for man to man Google has more creative, more inventive engineers. However, it ran out of its own creative solutions, especially in the Smartphone Space. What google has done now, is buy up as many patents as it can, with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility. It has acquired 2500 patents, at a cost of around $500,000 per patent. Which is only interesting because when Microsoft and Apple had bid for Nortel and Novell's patents..they managed to acquire them at $750,000 apiece.

While the Motorola Mobility deal was sealed at $12.5 bn, and guarantees Google access to mobile phone and smartphone markets, Microsoft have paid $8.5 bn for Skype, for software technology that is fast becoming redundant.

Ironically, Skype is being replaced by Google voice and video chat.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Abhorrence and the Social Network


"Nature abhors a vacuum" -English Proverb

Narendra Modi is at it again. And now its cops who have to bear the brunt. For everyone who has ever submitted evidence against him, and still had the temerity to continue in his police force. Make no mistake, in Gujarat, he is God,and like every other politician/godman in this country, he has ego issues. Godhra was a side effect, and Gujarat, despite its newfound prosperity still finds it difficult to forget that notable communal scarring of its subaltern proletariat.

Communality, which is very different from communism, is an example of atavistic tradition gone horribly wrong. For you see, just like religion and bullock carts, communality was also useful, in its own time. Before it grew into a highly dichotomous and very fractious bone of contention between people. You see, nature abhors a vaccuum, and this leads all human beings to seek the company of other human beings. And while the dudes and dudettes of today may have upto a 1000 friends on their Facebook profiles, the people of yesteryear were limited to 150 or less. Their social circles were considerably constricted by their inability to commute long distances.

And as befits humans of a certain social standing, these people treated anyone outside their community to be a threat. And this lead to the formation of many rules, which, archaic as they may seem today, are still allowed to define the lives of people. Rules whose significance has been lost but still form the cornerstone of the lives of millions of people, and in some cases the reasons for their death. If consenting adults were not allowed to marry outside their community, it was to preserve the sanctity of their community. To preserve the gene pool that they evidently go into their heads was superior to that of all other communities. Homogeneity of religion, in order to preserve their cultural identity, and an inherent xenophobia in order to prevent cultural dilution.

What's important to keep in mind, is that while all this might have been culturally and socially relevant a few centuries ago, it is no longer feasible to have communities divided on cultural political or theosophical lines. It is not possible for us to ostracise or segregate other cultures based on the presumptuous belief that we are superior to others. Our social network is wider than it has ever been, and so is our global footprint. RIght wing parties in france want to halt the import of any materials that may be produced indigenously. This view is shared by most right wing parties across the world, as well as certain left wing parties and moderates. And while this may seem easy in theory, it is nearly impossible to implement.

For you see, the phone that you will answer in a little while may have been designed in Finland, or California or Japan, might have been assembled in China or Korea, or may, shockingly even, have been assembled in India. Our global is no longer global.

We are now glocal. And communities are no longer isolated. And(hopefully) religion will no longer exist.